FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: RELIGIOUS AND FOLK HORRORS

Religious and Folk Horrors by Kristin Battestella

Horror comes in many forms thanks to these cults, witches, clergy, pagans, and rituals – and some of these contemporary films and period settings are better than others.

The Heretics – Kidnappings, ritual symbols, altars, torches, and cults lead to freaky masks, chanting, demons, and sacrifices in this 2017 Canadian indie. The nightmares continue five years later despite group therapy, volunteer work, and an overprotective mother who won’t let her daughter walk home alone. Assaulted and abused women are meek and apologetic, comforted by time heals all wounds hopeful, but others don’t want to be touched, refusing to be victims and tired of lies that don’t make it better. Would they go back and change their experience or seek revenge? Our female couple supports each other with realistic conversations and

maturity – not horror’s typical angry lez be friends titillation solely for the viewer gaze. Unfortunately, creepy campers, chains, and a scarred abductor ruin necklaces and birthday plans, leading to skull entrance markers, an isolated cabin, and flashbacks of the original attack with hooded dead, white robes, and flowery dresses marred in blood. Sunrise deadlines, whispers of angels, fitting Gloria names, and religious subtext balance faith, doubts, God, biblical aversions, and horns. What’s a delusion and who’s delusional? Who’s right or wrong about what they believe? The multi-layered us versus them, who’s really involved in what sinister, and what is truth or lies aren’t clear amid threats, stabbings, whips, and history repeating itself. Men versus women innuendo and who needs saving attempts add to the less than forthcoming police, lack of answers, and obsessive searches. Who is trying to protect whom? Violence begets violence thanks to fanatical beliefs in the ritual and long-awaited ceremonies. This demon is deceptive, growing stronger and more tantalizing despite a gross, uncomfortable sex scene. Occasionally the boo monster in your face jumps are forced, but the fine body horror, creaking wings breaking out the back, squishing sounds, and black sinews make up the differences. Fevers, convulsions, hairy clumps, and visions increase along with the realizations of what is happening before candles, pentagrams, burns, and one more final sacrifice. Viewers know where it all has to go, yet this remains entertaining getting there via escalating horror invasive, ritual complications, and one ready and waiting demon.

 

Loon Lake – David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Dark Shadows, people, Dark Shadows) anchor this 2019 Minnesota set indie opening with 1880 screams, witchy curses, multiple chops, and bloody heads. An unnecessary contemporary driving credits montage restarts the farm country rural as a drunken widower renting an empty home takes the cross off the wall. Distorted camera angles set off the horror as well as pictures of the deceased and the sense of numbness amid the pretty fields, pleasant breezes, overgrown cemetery, and eerie trees. Details on accidental deaths attributed to the witch and the bad luck that follows if you cross her grave three times come at the local diner, and Selby is quite distinct as the pesky old neighborhood kook and his conflicted minister ancestor. The bereaved, unfortunately, don’t believe in ghosts or witches despite tales of church fires, saucy spells, and bound rituals. Flashbacks provide last rites, fresh graves, and refused nastiness alongside spirits in the window, thunder, tolling bells, and number three repetitions. Conversations on grief versus faith are nice, if heavy handed, calming moments before figures in the cornrows, apparitions of the dead, phantom noises, and creaking floorboards. The past sequences, however, are out of order. That may be an attempt at leaving the history open to interpretation or making a case for crazy with guilt unreliable, but the audience has seen independent, over the top evidence of the witch, so we know it’s not all in his head. Despite surreal visions, alluring forest encounters, willing temptations, dead birds, power outages, and spooky lights; it’s also difficult to be on our modern man’s side. He keeps saying “Let me explain” after grabbing a woman when waking rather than admitting he had a nightmare about the witch, still wants to talk it out when threatened for attacking her and completely ignores a full gun rack because screaming at an intruder is apparently the better thing to do. Maybe this is about his learning to believe in both good and bad, but it’s tough to feel for a guy claiming he didn’t deserve this when the witch didn’t deserve what happened to her either. Convenient writing seen in a dream provides an end to the curse, but he doesn’t try to make it right, insisting he doesn’t care what went down – which isn’t the best course of action when she’s naked and bathing in blood. Putting on a cross makes for instant faith, but the seemingly sunny ending and false fake outs are obvious. Although this makes the most of zooms, music, and in-scene scares, once again the flaws here arise in too few people wearing too many production hats, and the imbalance shows by time our man pain protagonist is literally swinging at thin air. While entertaining for both the good as well as the bad, this really feels like two stories in one, and the elder period tale is better of the two.

You Make the Call

The Ritual – Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey) and Rafe Spall (Prometheus) plan an all bros adventure in this 2018 Netflix original. None of that been there, done that will do, and hiking an obscure trail in Sweden becomes the honorary guilt trip after they stumble into a liquor store robbery gone wrong. This cliché start could have been skipped in favor of the brisk mountain trail memorial toasts directly, for we learn all we need to know thanks to out of shape complaints, new $200 hiking boots, sprained knees, and the realization that they didn’t even climb very far and can see their luxury lodge from the pretty peak. Despite questionable maps, a faulty compass, rain, and no reception, they of course take a shady shortcut through the ominous forest, and if we haven’t seen this movie already, we’ve certainly seen others like it. Rather than the injured and another stay while the other two return for help, logical ideas, talk of bears, and abandoned items from previous campers are dismissed by these husbands and fathers who are a little too old to be acting so stupid. The unrealistic actions dampen the animal carcasses, thunder, and eerie trees as mysterious symbols and carvings lead to a convenient spooky cabin where they can stay the night. They break in, trespassing and ignoring runes and effigies they presume are “pagan Nordic shit” on top of strange roars and growling in the forest. Unnatural lights and distorted dream visuals intermix with bedwetting and sleepwalking frights, and in the morning the men follow a path they know is in the wrong direction just because it’s there and nobody is supposed to talk about what’s happening. More creepy cabins, monsters in the woods, screams, and blood begat missing friends and gory tree hangings before arguments, contrived guilt, and false hopes lead to torches, folk music, and chains. In the end, suddenly brave men make big declarations about their wives when earlier they cowered, passed blame, and couldn’t wait to get away from their families. We know horrors are going to happen, but the giving it away title spoils the supposed surprise. The ninety minutes plus feels overlong because it took so long to get to the creepy death warmed over people and actual sacrificial parts, yet the past looking rural and ancient mythology revelations are the story we should have had. Viewers don’t get to completely see what could be an awesome monster, and the unique Norse legends, pagan worship, and immortal bargains that should have been the focal point seem tacked on after we wasted all that time watching dumb dudes literally going around in circles in a tired guilt versus the supernatural metaphor. The familiar, predictable derivatives are shout at the television entertaining, but it’s tough to overcome the feeling that we should have been seeing the eponymous history perspective while these intruders get what they deserve.

I Didn’t Finish It

We Summon the Darkness – It feels like we’ve seen these rad chicks on the highway before complete with music, talk of make up and sex, and it’s 1988 via 2019 thanks to crimped hair, Madonna bangles, recent vehicles, and modern skinny jeans substitutes that look like dress up for the costume party. Gas station stops, old man innuendo, and televangelist fire and brimstone add to the cliché teases while convenient murder reports on the radio detail satanic symbols found at the crime scene. The jerks on the road are likewise weak with terrible mullets and everyone measuring each other’s meddle with their metalhead expertise gets old very fast. The flashing lights and concert bouncing up and down are also brief and lame tropes alongside the good girl peer pressured into everything cool and crazed, annoying exaggerations. Maybe if you look at this as a parody or if it had been a comedy the tone and style would make sense? The highway home to the rich house is instantaneous compared to drawn out start, and the Never Have I Ever chatting around the fire drinking binges goes on and on when it’s obvious the guys want sex and the girls are disinterested. Who’s really after whom and for what purpose turnabouts are interesting, but not unexpected thanks to the ritual foreshadowing and upside down cross jewelry leading to the drugged and bound. A gender reversal on the horror is supposed to stand out, but one girl’s character development is that she has to pee all the time and everyone is stupid, unlikable, knife playing drunks. You see, this isn’t really about the occult aspects, just a congregation trying to instill fear of the devil by committing murders that look like cult killings. Idiotic interrogations that waste time bothering to explain all this make the threats feel hollow, and I’m so, so tired of so-called righteous assholes giving decent people a bad name. We have enough of that at the top these days, so this didn’t need to be set in an eighties Midwest for the religious hypocrisy commentary. In fact, it might have come across as something deeper if the first half wasn’t wasted on faking period window dressing that doesn’t work. Stepmothers, bloody bodies found, police chases, lone officers who don’t call for backup, psycho daddy pastors – the contrivances just go on and on, escalating until I eventually stopped paying attention.

For More Horrors, Visit:

Witches and Demons

Dracula Video Review

Forest Frights

Book Review: Death Masks by Kim Richards

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content warning, there will be a non-graphic discussion of sexual assault and rape in this review.

I finished Death Masks by Kim Richards a few days ago and I’ve been rolling it around in my head, trying to decide what I thought about it. 

After some thought, my take is that Death Masks has two stories, one I enjoyed quite a bit and one I didn’t care for very much at all.

Both stories revolve around Bill. On the surface, Bill is a fairly stereotypical character if you asked for a standard model “IT professional”: out of shape, overweight, plays video games on his lunch break, not much for physical activity, or being outwardly social. If that was all there was to him, he’d be a fairly boring, one-dimensional character, one we have seen in countless other books and media featuring awkward, doughy men who have grown up and managed to make their adolescent computer nerdery their profession. However, what saves Bill from being a caricature is the emotional realism that Kim Richards uses when writing him, in particular regarding his relationship with his girlfriend Dixie, and that is the story, their relationship, that I enjoyed most in this book.

Dixie is the opposite of Bill in pretty much every way. Smaller where Bill is large, conventionally attractive for a woman while Bill is kind of a slob, Dixie is a nurse at the local hospital, a profession that works with people while her boyfriend works with machines. She’s an artist, primarily working with sculpture and plaster casts, and athletic in that she works out, goes jogging, and enjoys social dancing, particularly salsa, while Bill would rather drink a six pack, eat some pizza, and shoot pixel zombies. If Bill was true to the stereotype, he might try to passive-aggressively keep Dixie from the things that she enjoys that he doesn’t care about, particularly if they could threaten his relationship with her (like the dancing), but instead Richards writes him in a mature fashion, that even if he isn’t into the things Dixie enjoys, he supports her love of them because they bring her happiness and feed her soul. Early in the book, in chapter three, we have a great example of this as they go “dancing”, or Dixie goes dancing and Bill watches her. While he does acknowledge the occasional pang of jealousy, the focus is more on enjoying Dixie’s happiness and wanting to support her (it doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous and it’s a turn on for him to watch her dance). The same goes for her art; she has her own space in the basement that he remarks could make a good home office for him so he could do work from home more easily, but that would mean impacting her personal artistic space and he’d rather not. Seeing the consideration he pays her in regards to the things she enjoys (and the fact that she never gives him crap about his own interests that she doesn’t share) was a nice change of pace and a nice break from an otherwise stereotypical character.

The other aspect of their relationship that made me enjoy this part of the book was how Bill tries to support Dixie’s mental illness. Dixie suffers from depression and anxiety, primarily linked to particular times of the year such as fall and winter as well as Christmas specifically. This illness impacts how she interacts with Bill, at times being snappish or making things more difficult as he tries to navigate the complexities of her illness, and impacts her life in all of the myriad ways that depression and anxiety can. Not once does Bill treat her with anything less than respect and understanding and while he does worry about her, he doesn’t make his concern her problem so that she has to manage him managing her illness. He speaks with her counselor to strategize on ways he might be able to help her and he tries to be thoughtful about her condition. As someone who has had people close to him deal with such illnesses, watching Bill do his best to be helpful and take care of Dixie felt familiar and very real in a personal way. 

While those were the main aspects of Death Masks that I enjoyed, the rest of the plot wasn’t to my tastes.

The main conflict of the other plotline of Death Masks is Bill’s interactions with an unknown assailant. Early in the book, Bill has what might be a very minor heart attack and it scares him into action to try to better his health. In order to do this, he decides to take up walking (with the intent to move up to running when he’s in better condition to) and goes to the nearby park. While on his first foray into fitness, he comes across a scene on one of the paths: a thin figure hunched over the fallen body of a young man, another jogger. Thinking the man on the ground is being robbed, Bill tries to intercede but despite the size difference, the attacker being much smaller, Bill is quickly overcome and rendered unconscious. Before he is clubbed over the head with a rock, he looks up into the face of his attacker and sees a skeletal visage looking back at him. 

We as the reader are given glimpses into the attacker’s mind, a serial killer who uses a syringe full of some unnamed drug that almost instantaneously paralyzes those injected with it. We later learn that the killer targets men of a particular standard of physical attractiveness, stalking them from the bushes of the park’s jogging trails before ambushing them and taking them away to be buried alive while still paralyzed. Throughout the book we come to learn the attacker’s motivations, that they are seeking revenge for childhood wrongs perpetrated on them by their brother and his friends, a gang of drug-using thugs and criminals who sexually assault the attacker, first as what they were told was a gang initiation and later on just because they could. 

Can I just say that I am extremely tired of this use of sexual violence in fiction? Need to have a woman with a traumatic backstory? Have her be raped. Got to give a killer a reason for revenge? They were sexually assaulted. Have to put the female main character in a situation where they are in harm’s way? Have the threat be the explicit potential of them being raped. The use of something so serious feels lazy and, to me, disrespectful. With how traumatic real-life sexual violence can be, using it as the defining moment for why the villain is evil feels like it cheapens the reality of it for me and, depending on your reading, might not speak kindly to victims of such experiences. 

That said, the parts of the book that involve the park stalker struck me as unrealistic. A drug that works the same on people of various body types, regardless of how much they are given, without some suffering side-effects from the drug and nearly instantaneously? The police, when they are involved, are needlessly antagonistic and almost painfully disinterested at times. Despite the fact that the killer racks up a nine-victim body count, there is no rising consciousness of people of a particular gender going missing after visiting the park until very late in the book and, even then, the police are almost entirely dismissive of anything Bill has to say. Finally, in the end, Bill realizes the true identity of the killer when he hears their voice, recognizing it, but somehow fails to do so in their first encounter when he hears the killer speak. The twist of the reveal of the killer’s identity wasn’t really much of a twist and despite the killer’s earlier martial prowess, sweeping Bill off his feet, pinning him to the ground, and clubbing him unconscious, none of that was apparent in the final confrontation. 

My other criticism of the book is that the ending felt rushed, the final showdown only a few pages long.

While I feel like Death Masks started out strong, with Bill and Dixie being complex and well-rounded characters, the killer felt flat and disinteresting in comparison. With the rushed ending and some plot details that seemed inserted only to provide ineffective blinds for the killer’s true identity, the unfortunate impression I’m left with is one of a missed opportunity. 

Book Review: The Bonecarver (The Night Weaver Series) by Monique Snyman

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Threats of Rape

Before I begin I need to admit that when I chose The Bonecarver to review I wasn’t aware that it was book two in a series and, if I had, I wouldn’t have picked it up having not read the first. While this book doesn’t rely too heavily on the plot from the book before, recurring characters and their past history with the main character might have resonated and made more impact if I had their complete backstory.

The Bonecarver is the story of Rachel Cleary, a teenage girl attending Ridge Crest High in the small New England town of Shadow Grove. Despite its small and sleepy nature, the town of Shadow Grove is one of mysteries that hide a darkness beneath the surface, where terrible events happen but are covered up by those in charge. Only recently recovering from an encounter with a being called the Night Weaver, responsible for the deaths and disappearances of several children, Shadow Grove has moved on in its silent fashion, ignoring the strangeness and tragedy that had befallen it.

We are introduced to Rachel as she is attempting to take her SATs when a panic attack forces her outside, abandoning the test. While in the bathroom to calm down with a small amount of privacy, she helps save her classmate Mercia Holstein from an epileptic seizure. During this encounter, Rachel finds a small, carved figurine of bone in Mercia’s likeness, her pose and expression identical to her in the midst of her seizure. After this, more terrible things begin to happen to people around the town, each preceded by the appearance of a bone carving of the victim in the midst of an accident. After the discovery of a boneless corpse at her school and a frightening encounter with a strange fae, Rachel’s investigation of the threat takes her into the Fae world in search of allies and, when she returns home, she finds Shadow Grove in chaos as she confronts the creature known as the Bonecarver.

The parts of The Bonecarver that I enjoyed most were some of the descriptions. Monique Snyman does a good job of painting pictures of what she would like you to see and experience, often using all five senses to bring you into the scene. Settings are vivid, movement and action are easily imagined, and her take on classic fae like the Sluagh are memorable. The final climactic scene between Rachel and the Bonecarver is particularly theatrical.

That said The Bonecarver didn’t work for me in several ways. The first half of the book felt slow and stilted, taking quite some time to get going (although the second half of the book flowed much more quickly and felt like the actual story she wanted to tell). Discoveries felt awkwardly placed rather than organically made as if Rachel were stumbling through everything by luck, rather than any kind of skill.

While descriptions were vivid, they sometimes didn’t make realistic sense. For instance, we are told that the highschool was originally a “tiny schoolhouse with three classrooms and an outhouse” but has grown into a large, U-shaped building complete with bell tower, auditorium, cafeteria, indoor swimming pool, and enough classroom space to accommodate three thousand students, all of which were made possible by donations from generous alumni. However, despite the influx of money that made such expansion possible, large portions of the school have fallen into disrepair and “quickly [became] forgotten” because they aren’t used (for instance, Rachel notes that the pool was not filled at any point since she started attending high school). Why would a town waste money expanding a school in such a way without the population to warrant it, only to let it become decrepit? If the town received enough money to expand in such a way, did the money then dry up so that they couldn’t afford maintenance on it? Later the story takes us to the local hospital whose parking lot is full of cars placed there by the town council to make the hospital look busy, only they have begun to rust and fall apart, giving the parking lot more of a junkyard feel. Why is the hospital being busy important? How does the decision to fill the parking lot in such a way, when there are no people to accompany those cars, actually do anything to reach the stated goal of appearing “busy”?

The impression I received reading The Bonecarver was that there were often certain settings and scenes that Snyman wanted and so came up with explanations for them regardless of how much sense those explanations made. In order to have a long, protracted chase scene through the highschool, the highschool has to be large enough to accommodate it (including a ventilation system large enough for people to crawl through), despite a small New England town theoretically not needing a school that big. Rachel finds the boneless corpse in the boiler room of the old school house, which is described equally as being part of the physical structure of the modern high school but also considered a distinctly separate part of the high school because of its disuse, but why would the original school house have a boiler room when it had no plumbing? These are just two examples but this felt like a problem throughout.

Another main issue I took with the book was the almost casual use of sexual assault and threat of sexual violence. While in the Fae world, Rachel is sexually assaulted when a soldier sneaks up and grabs her from behind, fondling her breast in the process, before explaining how he’s going to rape her. She’s able to free herself and escape but the whole scene lacks any emotional punch; the fact that a high school girl was able to extricate herself from an adult, professional soldier with a single backwards thrown elbow makes it seem like the scene was written more to provide Rachel a horse to ride to advance the plot. In that case, threatening to have her raped feels like a cheap gimmick to up the danger of the scene that could have had as much gravitas without it.

We also encounter Nova, a king in the Fae world and brother to Orion, the ally that Rachel goes in search of. While he is present in the book, we learn that he has threatened to rape her in the past but despite this they almost have a cordial interaction when she helps him search for something he lost. However, when confronted with his brother, Nova sexually assaults Rachel in front of him by licking the side of her face and telling Orion what he wants to do to her, using this threat of sexual violence to force Orion to agree to leave the Fae world. Again, this feels like this happens because of the math that if violence is bad, then sexual violence must be worse, when it was completely unnecessary for the scene.

It does make a certain amount of sense when you consider that Rachel Cleary and The Bonecarver definitely fall into that subrenre of dark fantasy YA fiction characterized by Twilight, of the young female protagonist who doesn’t know her own attractiveness but most male characters desire. If Rachel’s worth stems from her unrealized beauty and physical body, then it makes sense that threats to her would be based around the thing being valued. Ultimately, this is the main conflict of The Bonecarver and the primary impetus for why the threat of the Bonecarver exists, which is a sad commentary on why these male characters find her to be important.

Ultimately The Bonecarver didn’t work for me but if you’re a fan of YA dark fantasy focusing around a female protagonist meant to be strong, overcoming challenges and defeating threats, then it may be for you.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant is a Confusing Disappointment by Kristin Battestella

Alien: Covenant – the latest film in the Alien franchise and the 2017 sequel to Prometheus – struggles with its franchise identity crisis, leaving the potentially interesting science fiction parables and body horror monsters wanting in the confusion.

When the colonization vessel Covenant is damaged by passing neutrino blasts, the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) must wake terraforming chief Daniels (Katherine Waterson) and the rest of the crew. After receiving a nearby signal from a mysterious, too good to be true planet much closer than their original vetted destination, leader Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to investigate. Unfortunately, inhaled alien toxins on the surface birth beastly parasites, and David (also Fassbender) – the android survivor of the lost research vessel Prometheus – has been living alone on the planet for the past ten years, studying the remaining Engineer evolution techniques and perfecting their monstrous designs with terrifying results…

Whether it’s Prometheus 2 or Alien 5, Alien: Covenant is immediately frustrating. If this is really an Alien movie, then Prometheus never should have held anything back in hopes of a sequel and just told its tale in one movie. However, returning director Ridley Scott and screenplay writer John Logan (Penny Dreadful) play it both ways as Alien: Covenant opens with android quizzes on The Statue of David, Wagner gems, and Valhalla. Such meaning of meaninglessness threads from Prometheus will confuse viewers who didn’t see it, and Alien: Covenant restarts with the titular colony vessel and its android custodian, Mother computer, and crew in stasis almost as if it’s trying to reboot said predecessor. Fortunately, pod fatalities, charred bodies, memento mori, and offline systems build suspense while radio chatter, spacesuits, and rogue transmissions create a science fiction atmosphere. Eerie forest destruction, Pompeii-like remains and crashed ships add mood but drop ships and lost contact are similar to Aliens while inconveniently convenient planetary storms mirror Prometheus. An entire team trots off for an expedition – leaving only one person behind to make lander repairs – before separating further so a careless guy taking a leak can get infected by some spooky alien particles. Educated people ask obvious questions to which they should already know the answers, adding stilted dialogue on top of back and forth scenes deflating the body horror when not acting stupid for the plot to proceed by willfully scratching and sniffing mystery polyps and not reporting when they feel sick. Friends insist on taking the infected back to the ship, but there’s no procedure amid the hectic radio calls and blood splatter. Women are on the mission just to whine – one tries to lock in another when both are equally contaminated and the visual hysterics don’t let the viewer actually see the out of control. Cutting to what’s happening elsewhere is a mistake when it leaves the bloody reveal a blink and you miss it special effect. It’s scarier when people are trapped with a fast growing monster building claustrophobic fear toward fatal ship explosions. However, the paired off crew members react so over emotionally to death yet barely at all to the creature shocks, necropolis infrastructure, and the suspicious survivor found there. Flashbacks and exposition detailing the pathogens, crashes, and destruction post-Prometheus ten years prior is really where Alien: Covenant should have begun, but we’re watching a woman strip down to wash her open wound in what hopefully isn’t contaminated water instead. After objecting to flying the colony ship down to the planet, minutes later the crew changes their minds once the route is more dangerous while fast action scenes, convoluted lingering, and rushed quality scenes contribute to the unevenness, hampering creepy encounters with new aliens, familiar eggs, and delicious face-hugger revelations. From the prologue to the ship and the planet to the necropolis, rival androids, and onboard terrors; Alien: Covenant is an overlong and confusing two hours with cargo bay trucks, out the airlock solutions, and unnecessary sexy showers littering a nonsensical Aliens copycat finale. What should be wonderfully chilling – gagging up mini alien eggs for the incubator to the Ride of the Valkyries – treads tires because between all the Prometheus rewrites, the four credited writers here, and who knows what more behind the scenes meddling, nobody mapped out where this disappointing prequel plot goes.

There was a time when I was excited for whatever film Michael Fassbender did next. Unfortunately, somewhere around Macbeth or Steve Jobs, Fassbender sold out with all these non-starters and uninteresting flops. Despite this superb dual performance as the poetic, T.E. Lawrence obsessed android David and the clueless but loyal and supposedly inferior model Walter, it’s difficult to look back at Hunger and believe this is the same actor who once so bled for his craft. It’s totally obvious what David is going to do, and the entire homoerotic flute fingering sequence is the invisible car of Die Another Day franchise rock bottom. Surely, there was a better way to show Walter as a stunted childlike machine designed as lacking creativity expressly because David was so disturbingly human in his desires. It might even have been more interesting to not reveal Walter as an android until the xenomorph acid destroys his hand when he protects Daniels. Walter naively thinks he can gain the details from David regarding their creator Weyland and how the Prometheus survivor came to be on this planet. However, David waxes on Lord Byron and thinks himself Crusoe, admonishing Walter for serving the unworthy, dying humans. He preys on Walter’s potential, saying it is love, not duty he feels for Daniels, revealing himself as an abuser who already destroyed the life on this planet. David wants to communicate with the neomorphs and earn their respect while he experiments with the hybrids. Walter knows this is wrong, but David is pleased with himself for creating the perfect organism – and he’s very disappointed in Walter for standing in his way. David has at last procreated, and it’s chilling to see his views realized in several wild births, radical experiments, and violent assaults. Sadly, Alien: Covenant’s clunky exposition and trite script ruin the intriguing android developments with ridiculous encounters and not-so-secret switcharoos leaving no resolution for Walter when both characters deserved more. Alien: Covenant may awe over David’s ambition and chew on the possibilities, but there’s so much happening the audience doesn’t have any time to revoltingly enjoy the villainy.

Although Sam’s daughter Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) is supposed to be the lead, Danny doesn’t do a lot beyond wearing her deceased husband’s iron nail around her neck in a messianic loose thread similar to Shaw’s cross in Prometheus. She’s made less pretty than the other women, and when she officially protests stopping at this perfect planet, she’s presented as a moody bitch only sharing her emo grief misgivings because there’s no point in a home now without her man. Naturally, all the men are allowed reckless manpain over their ladies while Danny easily discovers what David has done when the script bothers to have her look. By the final act she conveniently wants a 2,000 strong colony ship to rescue her just because the plot says it’s time to let the xenomorph onboard and make her a kick-ass action hero. Billy Crudup’s (Inventing the Abbotts) reluctantly in charge supposed man of faith Oram only decides on this planet to prove he’s up to snuff and doesn’t realize he messed up until it personally affects him. Tennessee cool pilot Danny McBride (Your Highness) recognizes John Denver music in the alien signal amid all his sexist jokes before risking the entire mission for his woman – whom viewers already know to be dead. Of course, shortly thereafter, he’s laying the groundwork for his next hook-up. A brief prologue appearance from Guy Pearce (Brimstone) returning as Peter Weyland should have come at the end of Alien: Covenant to fully accent David’s twisted achievements, and Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw is unceremoniously written off post-Prometheus with only a few effigies. We’re told she put David back together, he loved her for her kindness, and that’s that. The movie should have started with the Prometheus characters on this unknown planet and then met the colony ship only upon their arrival. Alien: Covenant is from the wrong perspective and overcrowded with far too many unnecessary characters – mostly screwing up husbands or similar looking wives raising the body count. Anonymous people being in relationships may make excuses for their behavior but it isn’t character development and doesn’t give viewers a reason to care. Showing two guys with matching wedding bands as an attempt at gay inclusion is also embarrassingly homophobic when their only scene is one dying after ejaculating a neomorph from his mouth. Sneaky James Franco (Tristan & Isolde) moments are silly as well because… it’s just James Franco in a promotional campaign for Alien: Covenant.

Thankfully, Covenant is a cool looking spaceship with solar sails, blue hues, green lighting, touch screens, and interface graphics along with red alarms, spooky chains, dangerous ladders, and perilous equipment. Unfortunately, fiery damage leads to CGI spacewalks and noticeable animation intruding upon the interstellar fantastic. Crowded submarine style rooms and music motifs from Aliens are also apparent amid waterfalls and mountain vistas borrowed from Prometheus. It’s also flat-out dumb to waste time on a cool drop ship water landing when there is terra firma everywhere, and what’s with all the dang hoodies? Blood, gore, and creative reverse alien births are appropriately disturbing, however, the surrounding CGI is again weak. Dark scenes and hectic firefights also make it difficult to see all those potentially intriguing hybrid creatures, twisted deliveries, and scary designs. The contrasting advanced ship technology and stranded apothecary research are likewise nice touches that deserved more time – embryos and stasis versus dissections and bestiary drawings. Facehugger scares, acid effects and freaky attacks are always fun to see, yet more than anything, these Alien homages cum knockoffs make one miss the originality and practical design advancements from Aliens. The spaceship action is very messy in Alien: Covenant with pointless, drawn-out action sequences littering the narrative, and it’s not surprising to read interviews with the film’s editor recounting the post-production struggle to balance these multiple storylines each playing at their own pace. Alien: Covenant needs to be re-watched for all its Alien movies pieces trying to bring together the creation theories from Prometheus via confusing Engineer goo, deacons, or xenomorphs yet this entire piece is also in dire need of a re-cut.

Instead of running with what was good from Prometheus, Alien: Covenant plays with its Prometheus connection the way Prometheus played with its Alien connection. Unfortunately, such inconsistent and contradictory carrots string along loyal franchise fans and won’t gain viewers who haven’t seen Alien. As with Prometheus and Alien 3 before, Alien: Covenant can’t serve both its masters and ultimately provides little repeat value, which ironically can be said for Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. Once again, we have no connection to LV-426 when all people ever wanted to know was how the Space Jockey got there in the first place. Frustration on such could haves or should haves being saved for yet more sequels compromises Alien: Covenant’s potentially entertaining science fiction, religious warnings, and monstrous possibilities with ennui.

For More, Visit:

Prometheus

Eden Lake

Brimstone

Monster Madness Month: Review of GROTESQUE : Monster Stories by Lee Murray

GROTESQUE: MONSTER STORIES 

A book review of Lee Murray’s Bram Stoker Award nominated collection

Reviewed by Renata Pavrey

“Generosity could be as contagious as the plague, as long as enough people were willing to be carriers”, is a quote that opens the book and sets the tone for the kind of writing one is in for. A collection of eleven tales narrated as flash fiction, short stories, and novelettes, Grotesque spans the horror landscape from mythological creatures to contemporary social media addictions, as the reader travels across France, China and New Zealand, meeting everyone from Maori warriors to zombies, spirits and sea gods and gods of earthquakes and volcanoes, Leonardo Da Vinci and Tangaroa, tin soldiers and kaiju. A taut collection I came across in a horror literature forum, the book is in equal parts thrilling, dark and educative, an action and horror fest, with layers of historical references and cultural influences.

The titular story opens the collection with an archaeological find transporting us to the 16th century to reveal its secret. As we move back and forth from the 1500s to present day, fantasy elements of horror merging with historical roots made Grotesque one of my favorite stories and a fabulous one to start the collection as it set the pace for what lay ahead. History is followed by mythology that serves to remind and educate about the stories of lore, as Hawaiki takes us through Chinese mythology, Taiwanese history, and the Maori immigration story; as does Maui’s Hook, another monster story with its foundations in Maori mythology. I love mythological retellings in literature as they teach you so much about different cultures around the world; legends and folklore containing treasures of life stories through the ages. The kaiju story was another one of my favorites.

The New Breed is a post-apocalyptic zombie story, while Cave Fever merges science fiction with horror through a two centuries-old storm that forces mankind to seek refuge underground into a claustrophobic cave existence. Selfie and Dead End Town are out-and-out horror fests. I loved Lee’s take on the millennial social media obsession with her twisted spin on selfies in the former, while addressing domestic violence in the latter. Edward’s Journal was another stunner of pure horror – an epistolary story of colonialism featuring a British soldier from India helping white settlers in New Zealand, while Heart Music takes us through the restless spirit of a fourteen-year-old dead child. Into the Clouded Sky is a novelette of adventures in New Zealand – a ride through action, thrills, and monsters all the way, and Lifeblood pits marginalized groups against each other to detract from their actual problems.

Every story offers a unique reading experience, and encourages you to read between the lines into the theme being expressed in each one. Grotesque is a splendid collection to note the range of the writer’s prowess in relaying stories across genres and themes, having relatable elements as well as something new to learn wherever in the world you might be reading the book. Lee’s dark and disturbing tales cover commonplace topics like clicking selfies, address issues like dementia and child abuse, and turn the spotlight on immigrants and grave robbers – causing the reader to ponder upon who the real monsters are. Grotesque is a collection filled with monsters, but through an array of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mythology and more, Lee reminds us that we have already encountered many monsters; with many more still to be met.

In an increasingly dark and ominous world, monster stories force us to challenge our fears. 

~Lee Murray

This book will delight horror fans and is a magnificent collection for those new to the genre to explore. I would also recommend it to readers of mythology – there’s much information to be gleaned about world cultures. The Maori glossary is a wonderful touch to familiarize readers with terms and phrases in the stories, although Lee does a splendid job in explaining them through the context of the story itself. Lee’s creations are out of this world and each one surprises in its own way. There’s an aftertaste that you could read an entire novel surrounding each plot.

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor with several novels and series to her credit. Grotesque is her first short story collection, which has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards this year in the category of collections.

My rating of the book: 5/5

Renata Pavrey

March 2021


Renata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion; driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

https://tomesandtales365.wordpress.com/Asian

 

Guest Blog : Mr. Mercedes’ Latest Season Premieres and It Brings the Feels by Rebecca Rowland

Mr. Mercedes Latest Season Premieres on Peacock on March 4, and It Brings the Feels

by Rebecca Rowland

In the first fifteen minutes of the third season of Mr. Mercedes, Bruce Dern is murdered. 

Dern plays a best-selling, reclusive writer, and this revelation is in no way a spoiler: not only is the crime the catalyst for the season’s story arc, but it is also the basis for Stephen King’s Finders Keepers, the second in the horror scribe’s Bill Hodges trilogy. According to King, Dern’s John Rothstein is not an alter ego but a mishmash of J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and Philip Roth, but let’s face it: Robert Frost insisted until the day he died that “The Road Not Taken” was not an allegory of selecting an extraordinary life path but only a plain ol’ poem about walking in the woods. Any high school English teacher would beg to differ. 

As a reader of King’s for more than thirty years, I admit to having felt a bit unnerved when Rothstein bit the dust specifically because I equated the fictional author with King himself. Shared grief when a celebrity dies is not a new phenomenon. When the grunge god’s suicide splashed across radio and television, someone spray-painted C-O-B-A-I-N across the interstate exit near my childhood home. When David Bowie, Prince, and Tom Petty were picked off by the Grim Reaper in what seemed like the trifecta of musical rapture just a few years back, I tore their glossy magazine photographs from their media memorials and taped them to my office wall. Watching the first third of season three’s lead episode, I considered what it will be like when King himself takes a final walk down the mile. 

I could track my life based on the release dates of King’s books. I was one of those kids who loved to read; my parents had to lock me outside in order to keep me from hunkering down in my room, my nose buried in a book. Because my father was a diehard Stephen King fan in the 1970s, I, of course, became instantly curious about his books, and at the age of ten, I was allowed to read Thinner because my parents had determined that it was the least nightmarish of King’s works up to that point (body image of a tween girl, be damned). I immediately moved on to The Shining and promptly had trouble sleeping, the obvious culprit being the clear view from my bed of a shower curtain in the night-light-lit bathroom. At the age of twelve, I went to the movies with a boy named Jimmy, and after we watched Silver Bullet, he gave me my first kiss. Throughout my teen years, I favored King’s short fiction, and it is because of Night Shift’s “The Boogeyman” that I insisted my college dorm room’s closet door always be shut completely, much to the vexation of my freshman-year roommate (who, incidentally, went on to executively produce not one but three of the CSI series as well as Murder in the First. I’d like to think my closet fixation takes partial credit for her career success with suspense, but it’s probably just a coincidence…).

After focusing my graduate degree in English on feminist theory, I based my thesis on the portrayal of female characters in popular horror fiction using Stephen King’s most recent releases at the time: Insomnia, Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne, and Rose Madder. After entering the workforce for the first time as an adult, I read The Green Mile in its original serial form and sobbed uncontrollably on the subway after the initial demise of Mr. Jingles. Many years later, while working as a librarian in Western Massachusetts, I had to laugh when I read “Big Driver” in Full Dark, No Stars: maniacal main character Ramona Norville was a librarian, and the story was set in the town in which I was living at the time. 

When I tell people that I write dark fiction—psychological horror, in particular, I am more often than not met with a roll of the eyes or a patronizing tone. Genre fiction, it seems, lacks the street cred inherent with traditional literary fiction. Stephen King is popular, but he’s no Dostoevsky or Dickens, they say. I beg to differ. A professor once told me, a classic is a work of literature with themes and relatability that supersede time and place. There is humanity in horror, at least in well-written horror, that could go toe-to-toe with any stuffy college literature course tome. Although we read horror primarily for the screams, what keeps many of us coming back, no matter at what stage in our lives we are, is the sympathy its characters bring out in us.

And so, I return to the latest television installment of King’s Hodges trilogy. The now defunct Audience Network shuffled the novels of the series, choosing to base its second season on the third book, End of Watch, to mixed reviews. Although there is little to top the show’s first foray, season three captures much of the dread and believability that were often absent from the second ten episodes. Brett Gelman, always a scene stealer in comedy funfests such as The Other Guys and Fleabag, displays dramatic range as attorney Roland Finkelstein and potential love interest for Holly Gibney, but it is Breeda Wool’s portrayal of Lou that is most impactful. Wool inhabits the imprisoned assassin of Brady Hartsfield so strikingly that I’ve added most of her other work to my watch list. 

Season three is aglow with plenty of gruesomeness, from a spontaneous hatchet to one unsuspecting character’s head to a pick-axe being inserted and dragged through another’s, but perhaps the most chilling scene occurs in the final episode of the season, one that brings to a head the mysterious dream sequence Bill Hodges has been experiencing. For me, it is this scene in particular that solidified what the third installment of Mr. Mercedes seemed to be proselytizing all along, that the best writers are the ones whose work continues to impact our lives long after they have left this earth. Was it morbid for me to ponder Stephen King’s eventual demise? Perhaps. On the other hand, it’s possible that horror literature’s crown prince will outlive all of us, Mother Abigail-style. Regardless, for horror fans, he will never really disappear.

 



Rebecca Rowland is the dark fiction author of The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight and Pieces and curator of the horror anthologies Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness; Shadowy Natures: Stories of Psychological Horror, The Half That You See, and the upcoming (June 2021) Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction. Her work has appeared in venues such as Bloody Disgusting’s Creepy podcast, The Sirens Call, Coffin Bell, Curiouser, and Waxing & Waning and has been anthologized in collections by an assortment of independent presses. For links to her latest publications, social media, or just to surreptitiously stalk her, visit RowlandBooks.com.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Riot Legion

Greetings HorrorAddicts! Time continues to pass in stops and starts. The days blend together and are distinct only by the latest headlines or weather phenomenon, like what the heck even is an “atmospheric river?” It sounds to me like the next thing in darkwave music. As I write this, we’ve made it through Groundhog Day and that means we’ve passed the darkest time of the year. We have light at the end of the tunnel, and that can be interpreted in many ways. Thank goodness for music, I say, as we could all use a little pick me up. Today I’m here to bring you a new artist who might just get you through the next six weeks of winter that precocious Punxsutawney Phil predicted, the little furry bugger! We need the rain here in the West, but I’m sure folks would like a break from the cold. Hang in there and let’s meet this month’s artist, RIOTLEGION.

RIOTLEGION hail from Seattle and pack a hard-driving industrial sound. Whereas Seattle is known for its grunge musical history, RIOTLEGION breaks with tradition. The album Machine Liberation was released  23 June 2020 through Blind Mice Productions. The brainchild of Michael Coultas, RIOTLEGION is known for high-energy audio-visual performances in the area. Their lyrics delve into the chaotic political landscape we find ourselves in after the events of the past few months. 

Many of the tracks on Machine Liberation lean heavily on distorted beats and chants that might appeal to fans of previously reviewed artists JUSTIN SYMBOL or CELLMOD. “Out of My Head” hits with a hypnotic beat and a rhythmic chant and is a standout on the album and the creepy intro to “Liberation” piqued my interest. The artist relies heavily on flickering synthesized beats and static to add atmosphere to tracks like “Decimator,” and “The One You Deserve.” 

Check out RIOTLEGION if you’re looking for some angry club music to work out some of your aggressions. I’ll be back next month with more new music for you to feast your ears upon. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Instagram @rlmerrillauthor where I post music recommendations in my stories. I can’t have my lovelies going without the best tunes to listen to, now can I? You can also find playlists on Spotify for my books and whatever mood I’m currently in. Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…


R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor.

 

Book Review: Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn


Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: violence, gore

Mark is a troubled teen in typical white suburbia. He gets in fights, sneaks out of the house, and smokes with his friends. He doesn’t fit into his parents’ ideal life of picket fences, neat lean lawns, and bland dinners. But teenage rebellion takes a turn for the dark when Mark discovers The Shack. At first just an oasis of peace, The Shack begins to ask more and more of Mark in return. Mark is helpless to resist the twisted, violent desires The Shack places in him.

Shelter for the Damned is a slow burn descent into madness. Mark is led into a world of violent reactionism until he finds himself too far to climb out. It’s horrifying to watch his descent. Even as he commits terrible acts, he is numb to the effect of it.

Thorn fearlessly writes the awkwardness of the teenage experience. It’s painful to look at sometimes. Teenagers don’t always make logical decisions; they are ruled by hormones and ego. Thorn manages to convey this well.

Mark is plagued by futility. He is dragged along by the plot, even as he is the one making decisions. It’s a great metaphor for the lack of control teens have over their own lives (externally and internally). Mark’s parents repeatedly ask him why he does what he does, something that he can’t answer. They beg him to change his behavior, which he never does. It’s a familiar feeling that I had while reading. From an outside perspective, it’s infuriating to watch Mark’s downward spiral.

Thorn absolutely nails his portrayal of white suburbia in the early 2000s (I should know, I was there): the eternal expanse of identical houses, the hidden poverty, and abuse, the teens scrabbling for a sense of individuality in a world of carbon copies. In the midst of this conformity, The Shack stands in sharp relief. It’s easy to see why Mark is so drawn to it, even without supernatural influences.

Thorn’s writing brings a literary element to the horror genre. His descriptions are vivid and realistic. He tends toward psychological horror rather than a gorefest. Not to say there isn’t gore, but Thorn treats it tastefully.

I would have liked to see Thorn explore the confusion of whether Mark was insane or possessed or plagued by an eldritch force. He introduced this in the middle of the book but left it unaddressed. I also think he could have played out more the effect each of the murders had on Mark’s psyche. Instead, Mark was too ready to move on from events.

While Shelter for the Damned stars teenagers, I would not classify it as Young Adult. It is a solid horror novel. I enjoyed reading it. Thorn’s writing is a joy to read. If you like supernatural dread, you’ll enjoy Shelter for the Damned.

You may also enjoy Mike Thorn’s short story collection Darkest Hours.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Campy Monsters!

 

Campy Monster Fun

by Kristin Battestella

 

Nestle in with this bemusing array of mid-century monsters and cheesy frights!

The Beast of Yucca Flats– The notorious 1961 SF horror here starts off fun and scary with a toweled pretty, strangulations, space race secrets, communism fears, and nuclear fallout. Unfortunately, this hour is held together by a very dodgy narration which unnecessarily replaces what should be dialogue. It’s mistake numero uno– hardly anyone talks and this makes for the least amount of character development possible. No performance happens; it’s a story being told. While that’s fine in cartoons perhaps, aren’t you making a film because of the show don’t tell possibilities? It’s unrealistic to expect a serious science fiction or spooky adult audience to sit through something like this-which is as is really nothing more than a naughty children’s short. That’s Rule 2: don’t underestimate your audience. Did I mention the music is also much too much? Yes, this ‘film’ is seriously flawed, and to some, that is its very appeal. Fans who enjoy the hokey of the day will love the cars, pace, and weak fifties filmmaking style, and drinking game fans can have a wonderful time with the utterly fake shoot-out and car chase. It’s like they’re kids with pop guns spinning the wheels of parked cars! This one must be seen to be believed, indeed.

The Giant Gila Monster – It had been ages since I’ve seen this 1959 hokey! Though everyone has probably scene clips from the fiery finale, I’d forgotten how much fun this mix of sock hop, classic tunes, cool cars, fifties nostalgia, and creature feature effects really is. The bemusing doom and gloom introduction and opening deaths are accented with some over the top scary music to match the silly premise, and the real lizard footage is downright charming! Sure, nothing is frightening because of the ridiculous production values, but the simple A to B to C execution proceeds at an entertaining little pace. And man, Don Sullivan (Teenage Zombies) and his tow truck are always handy! This teen not only looks 35, but he helps strangers, loans books to the sheriff, and sings to crippled little girls. Of course, the Mexican portrayals are a bit offensive if brief, and though the supporting greasers are totally limp acting-wise, drunken DJ Ken Knox is on form corny at his protest over $2 for a tow. The fifties redneck colloquialisms might be tough for some young viewers to understand today. However, this is all just great for audiences looking for such dated vehicular vernacular- a mid-century Texas time capsule captured before the turbulent sixties began. Yes, it’s completely hokey, but it works, and works damn amusingly!

The Monster Maker – Lovely piano concertos set up the gothic mood, eponymous twisted science, and good old-fashioned lovelorn obsession in this hour-long 1944 science fiction horror tale starring a juicy J. Carrol Naish (Beau Geste) and Ralph Morgan (Magnificent Obsession) as his forcibly misshapen and sympathetic victim. The then-contemporary designs and cool science lab are also a treat- except for the ape, of course. Why must there always be a man in a monkey suit in these old capers? A few scenes do drag or feel slow and long despite the short length, and the formula plays a little obvious at times. However, the fun, over the top style works. Women scream, get manhandled, and blackmail. It’s of its time, but entertaining nonetheless.

The Wasp Woman – It seems Roger Corman really likes his women, and this 1959 creepy is The Fly for chicks. Though not saucy or purely for ogle value- which is both good and bad depending on your point of view- the outdoor values, regular Fred Katz music, and scary buzzing sounds set off the more mature science fiction thoughts and laboratory desperation. One chick does get to slap another hysterical chick, yes, but the concepts here are just as fun. How far will we go for beauty? What cost is too high? The suggestion of bees and wasps is also chilling for those who dislike insects and simply terrifying to anyone allergic to bee stings. The sound is tough to hear in some spots, and the added prologue is slow in establishing the freaky premise of using wasp extracts as the fountain of youth. Some animal testing scenes are iffy, too. Thankfully, the fun labs and haywire science keep this one interesting.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Ro’s Recs /Women Get Spooky

Ro’s Recs: Women in Metal 

Heavy Metal and Horror will forever be intertwined. Ever since the first notes were played by founding fathers Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the two genres began a relationship that is symbiotic. Women didn’t always have a role front and center in the music, but that, my fellow horroraddicts, is changing. 

The women carrying the dark torch in music these days are inspirational and powerful. Their musical styles and their backgrounds may vary, but they’re continuing to prove that women can rock hard and they continue to explore the dark recesses of society that horror fans love to dwell in. Check out these bands and find some new favorites. 

Spiritbox, hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, features lead singer Courtney LaPlante, whose voice is absolutely mesmerizing. From their name to the imagery in their videos and their dark lyrics, Spiritbox is a horror fan’s dream band. I guarantee if you give a listen, LaPlante’s vocals will have you spellbound. 

In this Moment from Las Vegas, Nevada, are veterans of the metal scene. Rock Goddess Maria Brink not only brings her unique vocal styling full of emotion and drama to the band’s hard rock sound, but her lyrics explore everything from the horrors women experience to dark fairy tales and pagan symbolism. If you EVER have the opportunity to see the band live, do not miss out. Here is a clip from a collaboration with the Metal God, Rob Halford of Judas Priest.    

 The Napalm label’s artist Tetrarch has a sound that will appeal to fans of Linkin Park as well as heavier metal bands like The Amity Affliction. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, and now LA-based, the band features guitar player Diamond Rowe who proves that chicks can rock hard! She was also the first Black female lead guitarist to be featured in Metal Hammer magazine. Their video for I’m Not Right has a horror feel to it that I can totally vibe with. Anyone who’s been bullied can relate! 

Code Orange, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a band I discovered after hearing Corey Taylor from Slipknot rave about them. Their music has an intensity to it that reminds me of Slipknot and is filled with time changes, unique sounds, and creepy effects that make my black heart happy. The video for Underneath, which features guitarist Reba Meyers on vocals, is a sci-fi/horror show that all of my fellow horroraddicts will dig. Check out the band and the video, which was directed by @maxmoorefilms

 

And on the harder edge of the metal scene, you can find long-time metalcore veterans Straight Line Stitch from Knoxville, Tennessee. Lead vocalist Alexis Brown is fierce. Her vocal stylings travel effortlessly from screams to melodic choruses. Check out their video for Black Veil.

I am always seeking out the best in new music and you can read my reviews and recs here on HorrorAddicts.net as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @rlmerrillauthor. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

______________________________________________________________________________________

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

 

Book Review: “Severed Wings” by Steven-Elliot Altman

Hello Addicts,

Imagine that you are an actor on the cusp of becoming a breakout star in a new series, only to have fate take it away in the blink of an eye. How low would your life sink, and what would you do to get that life back? These are the questions raised by Steven-Elliot Altman in Severed Wings. .

Brandon Jones is a rising star set to take on a sitcom role that he sees as his big break. Fate intervenes in the form of a head-on car accident that takes the life of a teenager and places him paralyzed from the waist down and permanently in a wheelchair. He breaks up with his girlfriend, a starlet in her own right, loses the sitcom role he fought hard to get, and cuts off contact with family and friends. He sinks into depression, finding solace in alcohol and companionship with a drag queen and an escort working her way through college.

Life and circumstances change when new neighbors move in down the hall. At first, they are a mystery he feels a strong urge to solve, but he is smitten when he sees the woman living there. Unfortunately, while she is distantly friendly, her boyfriend is anything but that. The mystery behind the couple deepens when a man leading a blind older woman knocks on Brandon’s door by mistake. He recognizes the woman as a prestigious agent. Her presence in their apartment building is enough to inflame his curiosity further. What follows are miracles and the discovery of entities almost as old as the world itself.

I found the take on a man falling from the highs of stardom to the lows of despair, self-loathing, and depression to be engaging. The supernatural elements fold into the mix in a satisfying way for the tale. There is a bit of redemption towards the end, although it doesn’t go as far as offering a thoroughly happy ending. If you are looking for a quick read a la the Masters of Horror television series, I think this will satisfy that craving.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Night Watch (1973)

Elizabeth Taylor does Horror in Night Watch

by Kristin Battestella

Upscale housewife with history Elizabeth Taylor thinks she witnesses a murder in the creepy abandoned house next door in the 1973 British thriller Night Watch. Unfortunately, her broker husband John Wheeler (Laurence Harvey) nor her carefree best friend Sarah (Billie Whitelaw) believe her. The police are tired of the increasing phone calls and neighborhood hysteria, but the terror escalates thanks to stormy nights, pills, alcohol, and slit throats.

Director Brian G. Hutton (Where Eagles Dare) and writers Evan Jones (The Damned) and Tony Williamson (The Avengers) adapt the Lucille Fletcher (Sorry, Wrong Number) play with flowers, quaint English gardens, and smiling rapport. The swanky drinks before dinner and lingering sixties style, however, contrast the looming gothic manor next door. The grounds are said to be poison where nothing will grow, but someone is digging in the backyard on stormy nights, and vivid dreams of speeding cars, accidents, and morgue terror distract from the snobbish talk of avoiding lesser neighbors. Late night waxing on the fatal past invokes a wee small hours limbo – traumatic memories and two characters who’ve lost touch make for fine drama before raging storms and screams reveal something horrible across the way. Dead men and cutthroats disturb the classical music, but inspectors find nothing in the congested, maze-like condemned as Night Watch relies on performances and mood rather than sensationalism for its taut, through the shutters peering. Pills or brandy are suggested to keep calm, but flashlights, clutter, and foreground objects layer the visual frame. Viewers are looking for something – questioning what we see or didn’t see. Could it all be an honest mistake? The police think it’s nothing but “money and menopause” on top of brief nudity, shower saucy, and hotel room trysts. Newly planted trees aren’t enough evidence, but nuggets of information trickle out from the ensemble. Suspicious neighbors find it exciting that there’s hear tell of a dead body nearby yet refuse to have their bushes dug up as part of the official search. Red herrings add to the creepy commentary about disliking neighbors who were there before you just as much as the friends you choose living even closer. Who’s watching whom and from which house questions layer the voyeurism alongside debates on hallucinations, eidetic images, and convincing oneself that what you see is real. Old mementos thought lost suddenly reappear, leading to arguments about gaslighting and being deliberately terrorized as more police calls, chases, and curiosity create a ‘burbs mind your own business across the hedge. Despite lights next door, the case is closed – inspectors and doctors both strongly suggest everything go back to normal amid awkward dinners, screams, and more off-screen witnessing. Revelations about what had really happened in previous accidents and shock over-identifying bodies found in flagrante delicto provoke more tension in the increasingly crowded quarter. Eventually, the police laugh and roll their eyes, proposing our housewife contact the building owners herself or hire a private detective. All the paperwork is ready for a trip to “rest” in Switzerland, too – accounts, legalese, and power of attorney but that’s all just routine. Confrontations, secrets, and lies will out thanks to hide and seek twists inside the derelict. Night Watch gets its horror on in a spooky multi-layered finale of blood, violence, crazed attacks, and frenetic turnabouts. Who exactly was really planning what and when? Seemingly early and obvious giveaways make room for more surprises, and Night Watch ensures the shocking schemes are ultimately completed with skill and gravitas.

Flowing gowns, glam necklaces, rock rings, and coiffed hair assure Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) looks classy as well to do housewife Ellen Wheeler. She dresses for dinner, drinks, and does jigsaw puzzles, for she needs patience to give her something to do when she’s so often alone. Her ritzy life should be nothing but grand, however, the insomniac Mrs. is up all night fascinated by storms and thinking about her father’s bad poetry. She’s been spoiled yet feels restrained and bored. The watch during the night is for all the things you can’t make sense of during the day, says Ellen, and she’s increasingly returning to memories of her late first husband Carl. Dreaming of his accident keeps her awake – she vividly recalls the fatal scenes and blood the viewer never sees but doesn’t remember previously dealing with the police and feels nervous about talking to them. However, Ellen also doesn’t want to be coddled or hear this witness is all in her mind, and she’s angry when no one believes her, even more hysterical over the disbelief than upset by the crime she apparently saw. Without support, Ellen is increasingly frazzled, pathetic, and paranoid. Will she voluntarily go to the doctor so he can tell her the dead body is all in her mind? What happens when she thinks she sees another one? Mrs. Wheeler’s wheels turn as she suspects her pills, beverages, and if someone is deliberately making her recall Carl’s demise. Despite her full house with husband, friend, and maid, Ellen fears someone else is watching her. She repeatedly calls the police and eventually agrees to see the psychiatrist, and though desperate, she is not stupid. Ellen is quite intelligent and recognizes when she’s being lied to or signing the wrong papers. She’s damn shrewd in seeing what’s what, and Night Watch’s madness begins to make sense as only Dame Elizabeth could make the clicking of the retractable pen so sassy and defiant before refusing to take the last tranquilizer in the bottle. Long drags on the cigarettes and strategic pauses emphasis the deliciously dark camp, and I’m surprised Night Watch feels so obscure when Taylor’s performance is so chill.

Laurence Harvey’s (The Manchurian Candidate) stocks and bonds big wig John Wheeler wants to know why his wife can’t sleep. He works long hours, but wonders what he’s done to upset her even if she says it’s not him. John takes care of Ellen, babying her with warm milk the way a daughter goes from father to husband to protect her. However, John does not believe she’s seen anything. He won’t call the police over a false alarm and insists the inspector not upset his already not well wife. John won’t stick up for her claims, yet he warns the police to not dismiss Ellen. Although he’s worried over the dangerous mix of alcohol and sleeping pills, John’s more concerned about possibly being sued by an angry neighbor. He dislikes when the police want him to control his wife and encourages her to see their doctor friend once he’s tired of her bringing up her late husband. John agrees she is right when Ellen suggests they take a holiday – but she says we and he only wants her to take a vacation. He has all that “spa” paperwork ready! Swanky best friend Billie Whitelaw (The Omen) on the other hand, is the houseguest who won’t leave. She keeps saying she’s moving on to Scotland and debates running away with her latest on and off conquest Barry but may have other tête-à-têtes, too. Sarah stays to look after Ellen, providing tranquilizers and hot chocolate while waxing on all the adventures she could be having and the excuses she can make up to get away with them. Although she tries to avoid topics that will upset Ellen – like Carl – they always creep back into the conversation. Sarah insists Ellen can’t go on like this, but as the third wheel in the marital house, her companionship is automatically suspect. She lies to spare Ellen but also apologizes for her tall tales. Doctor Tony Britton (The People That Time Forgot) must also tread lightly with Mrs. Wheeler. He doesn’t want her to be committed but needs her to voluntarily trust his help. Above all, he insists that she must get out of this house before it’s too late.

Spooky black branches, dark blue skies, boarded windows, banging shutters, and overgrown vines contrast the mirrors, red leather couch, white staircase, and swanky record players next door in Night Watch. Creepy statues and artwork, blue lighting, ticking clocks, and swirling cigarette smoke add ominous to the hip turtlenecks, lux lamps, decanters, and manicured gardens. Knives in the kitchen, rain splatter on the windows, and vintage blue sirens create pulsing tension while gates, flashlights, and condemned interiors set off the congested mood. Horseshoe phones, switchboard operators, and retro trench coats should be cozy nostalgia, but the colorful outdoors disappear as the peering through the blinds and drawn shades invoke agoraphobia. Distorted dreams and intense flashes of past car accidents lead to dead bodies and hospital Disturbia thanks to low camera angles and spotlights. Night Watch has subtle, choice visuals with reflections of the scary house on the fine townhouse window overlaying all action inside and out. Well done cinematography provides dark scares as well as focuses on Taylor’s face as zooms hone in on critical images and objects. Thunder punctuates arguments as the rhythms escalate, and through the gate, chases move the action to our spooky neighbors amid barren beams, peeling plaster, creaking stairs, and exposed woodwork. Violent struggles in the dark and shocking silhouettes allow for what we don’t see suspicion and final revelations. Wise viewers may pick up on the mystery here for there are too many similar stories to Night Watch before and since. Audiences looking for full-on horror a la Hammer of the day will be disappointed, too. Fortunately, the psychological chills, spooky twists, and superbly unraveled cast do get their scary on in an entertaining end. Night Watch is a fun late night tease worth seeing more than once to catch all the whodunit winks.

For More Retro Women in Horror Visit:

Death Becomes Her

Dial M for Murder

Dead Ringer

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Period Piece / Horror Ladies

Period Piece Horror Ladies by Kristin Battestella

What’s more wonderful than a gothic woman in fancy clothes and delicious settings experiencing crimes and ghosts with a dash of scandal, saucy, and the supernatural?

Angelica – A Victorian couple spirals into paranormal horrors thanks to puritanical repression in this brooding 2017 tale starring Jena Malone (The Neon Demon), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), and Ed Stoppard (The Frankenstein Chronicles). Ghostly photography, flashbulbs, and empty chairs contrast the bustles, parasols, and formalities before lanterns, carriages, fine townhouses, and storms. Bedridden confessions lead to earlier courtings with circus sideshows and talk of Darwinism versus the stiff upper lip British tapering their animal appetites. The microscope revealing disease causing organisms is almost as fantastic as the camera capturing spirits, and while it’s okay for a young lady to work in a stationery store selling nibs and ink, she can’t see her future husband’s laboratory. Our humble orphan now in elaborate red dresses is called a counter jumper by the aristocratic ladies, and she’s fearful of the bridal bed before enjoying it in a scandalously active montage. Bells toll amid talk of losing a mother nor wanting to be one, and this birth is graphic, not maternal bliss thanks to scalpels, screams, and both lives at stake. Unfortunately, the doctor says another pregnancy is not worth the risk, and the couple should “desist entirely” and close her garden. Our husband doesn’t want to seek pleasure elsewhere, but she can’t get into other..options…and favors their toddler over him. Soon, she’s completely revolted by her husband and obsessively attached to the child, and the wife is made to feel guilty about her health and desires by everyone in tense Victorian melodrama. Men in suits have no trouble warping her mind, but they are shocked to see a woman enter the medical theater amid animals in cages, exposed brains, and disturbing experiments that put the creepy back into the complex characterizations. Strange noises, visions of germs in the air, bugs in the woodwork, and wardrobes that open by themselves lead to more anger as the husband dislikes the chaos his overprotective wife is causing in their home. She won’t let these apparitions prey on her daughter – who also sees this floating ectoplasm man in her room. Is she putting more notions in the imaginative child’s head? Is this mental illness or is the repressed sexual energy seeping into the house itself? The maid calls in a scam artist spiritualist to ring bells, burn sage, and banish the banshees. Rather than a charlatan taking advantage, however, there’s a woman to woman understanding and courage – a protection spell is more like peace of mind somewhere between being a modest mother and the shame of enjoying sex. There are also unspoken lesbian veils, entertaining women while your husband’s away, putting their feet on the table, showing their legs, and drinking his best port. Drunken undressings provide laughter instead of rattling doors, swarming entities, prayers, and fires against evil. If he is not at home, who is festering this supernatural activity? The drama before the horrors may be slow to viewers expecting in your face scares a minute, but the intriguing characters are intertwined with the fear. Our mother needs to destroy the snake manifestations and demon man coming for her daughter before her husband sends her to Bedlam, and the once beautiful interiors become stifling as ghostly sexual encounters escalate to mind and bodies becoming one with blood and penetrations of a different kind. Although the bookends are unnecessary and this seems caught between two audiences – too much drama for horror fans and intrusive paranormal activity for period piece viewers – such Victorian horror drama with a touch of LGBT is perfect for fans of gothic mood and psycho-sexual dreadfuls.


Lizzie – Maid Kristen Stewart (Twilight) gets steamy with the titular turn of the century murderess Chloe Sevingy (American Horror Story) in this 2018 biopic accented with fine costumes, rustic lighting, and vintage Victorian interiors. Six months before the screams and blood, the buttoned-up, repressed daughter is already defiant against the patriarchal oppression by going to theatre parties unaccompanied where low cut, colorful frocks contrast the tight collars and immediate sexual tension at home. The Bordens can’t have anything too extravagant despite being able to afford it, and Lizzie prefers the barn and animals to people, reading aloud in an innocent but antisocial loneliness. While some dialogue is a little too modern, our eponymous lady has a progressive, forceful, even masculine energy that can’t be contained with fainting spells. Our old maid is called a lesbian abomination but in turn rightfully calls her perverse, abusive father a lying coward before creaking floorboards, broken mirrors slid under the door, revenge injuries, and burned documents reveal the truth. The up-close camera often peers through the window, catching the glances as each lady looks at each other – the audience is in on the intimate possibilities but when your employer suggests his servant leave the door to her hot attic room open, she can’t exactly say no. The strict orders and behind closed doors implications are uncomfortable enough without the often seen exploitative, degrading visuals, and the women bond during intimate undressings and corset tightenings. Theft and rebellious acts increase amid suspicious business deals, threatening letters, and whispering relatives. The women have to eavesdrop to learn what the men are planning for them before violent punishments and one and all sitting at the dinner table like nothing has happened. Is murder the only way out of the hypocrisy? Were the violent tendencies always there or could you be crazy in love enough to kill? The ax is shown throughout the potboiler, and although the stifling camerawork may be disorienting to some viewers, it mirrors the closeness when it is both welcomed by the women or invaded by nasty men. Regardless of height, the unprotected ladies must look up to the creepy uncles, diminished and fearful of physical violence. Retro photo pops accent the bludgeoning editing before jail and witnesses on the stand provide the fallout from this infamous hatcheting. Premeditated accomplices, church bells, deliberate nudity, and out of control horror are worth the wait once the finale reveals the symbolically sexual posturing, vomit, and splatter. Some people just don’t have the stomach for this sort of thing while others so smooth have thought of everything. There is some unevenness with the characters – probably from when the project was envisioned as a television piece with bigger roles – and the killer romance meets Victorian women’s lib messages are mixed. However despite liberties suggesting what went on in this congested house and a decidedly quiet, not mainstream style that won’t be for everyone, this interesting perspective will have viewers studying this disturbing murder case with a sympathetic, personal anew.

 

Rebecca – Artistic ingenue Emilia Fox (Merlin) – companion to wealthy gossip Faye Dunaway (Don Juan DeMarco) – is smitten by the suave yet mysterious Charles Dance (Bleak House) in this 1997 three hour Masterpiece adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel. Sublime style, flapper headbands, candlelight, and long stem cigarettes add to the whirlwind 1927 Riviera’s scenic drives, classic convertibles, and charming hats. Unlike the immediately gothic grayscale of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 version, vivid color and visual depth layer this initially idyllic romance. Our unusual couple have each been shy, lonely, and sad, but Maxim de Winter admires this young lady’s innocence and honesty compared to the gilded aristocracy. Picnics, boat rides, a silly girl, a foolish old man – can they make a go of their differences? The dangerous curves and perilous drives suggest something slightly sinister brewing amid glimpses of the unforgettable and beloved by all Rebecca. It’s been a year since her death, yet everyone must remind Maxim of his late wife upon this surprising second marriage. The newlyweds return to the lovely English gardens and proper decorum at Manderley, the estate where the Emmy winning Diana Rigg’s (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) icy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers won’t let go of the first Mrs. DeWinter’s memory. The household reception is awkward and chilly – the coastal brightness turns darker thanks to shadow schemes, lighting changes, and the looming silhouettes of both Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca. Despite being a large estate with a west wing facing the sea, the hefty staircases, huge windows, and great fireplace feel congested, closing in on the new, nervous Mrs. as she gets lost wandering the shuttered parts of the house, breaks priceless statues, and hangs her head like an admonished little girl. She doesn’t fit into the upper-class routine, but the brooding, often misunderstood Maxim doesn’t want her to become like those other cruel, aristocratic dames. Everyone is so heavy handed, formal, and not just unhelpful but resentful of how unlike Rebecca she is, and the couple regrets returning home to the rocky cliffs, beachside cottages, and distrustful staff. Crazy hermits, past gossip, vogue cousins too close for comfort, recreating previous fancy dress balls, and one big costuming faux pas strain the relationship further, but she can’t exactly ask her new husband about why the pieces on how Rebecca drowned aren’t coming together. Her room is still kept as is, almost in worship where our devoted housekeeper can express her creepy vicarious and pathetic intimacy, re-enacting brushing her madam’s hair and laying out her perfumed nightgown. Was Rebecca really so perfect? If she wasn’t would anybody actually say so? Her presence is overwhelming – not because of any actually supernatural mood or ghost, but because the obsessed Mrs. Danvers won’t let anyone forget, placing the fanatical pressures of her devotion on the second Mrs. de Winter. Foreboding strings add more ominous, however, the suspense is certainly helped by Maxim’s not coming clean on his life with Rebecca at the start. While some scenes are very similar to Hitchcock’s vision, this is also closer to the novel, and even if you’ve seen other adaptations, viewers are swept up in wondering how the secrets will play out in the finale. Fog, vintage boats, watery evidence, mistaken identities, inquests – the circumstances surrounding Rebecca’s life and death come to light, but our servant oversteps her bounds with cruelty, jealousy, and bullying suicidal whispers just to assure Rebecca everyone thought they knew and loved won’t die. Though more romantic than true crime, the fresh love, and warped liaisons are told swift and honestly as the scandalous true colors are revealed with fainting spells, medical discoveries, fiery rescues, and kisses in the rain. Indeed all the gothic staples are here with period mood and performances to match.

The Turn of the Screw – Downton Abbey alum Michelle Dockery joins Dan Stevens (again) and Nicola Walker (MI-5) in this ninety-minute 2009 BBC adaptation of the Henry James askew moving the repressed ambiguity to 1921 institutions with post-war doctors analyzing our governess’ infatuation with her employer, the topsy turvy male shortage, and of kilter Bly Manor. Fashions, hats, sweet automobiles, fine woodwork, and hefty antiques sell the refreshing setting, however, the nonsensical strobe flashes look amateur on top of the time-wasting, disjointed doctoring add-ons, and unnecessary narration. Visions of dalliances that initially upgrade the Victorian scandalous soon hit the viewer over the head one too many times as the governess imagines her master and his saucy approval. She insists she’s not the nervous type, but the dark interiors, maze-like staircases, and distorted camera angles add to the strange noises and creepy country manor unease. She’s in charge, above housekeepers and maids, but there are too many flighty women doing all the work in this house. Parasols and summer white contrast eerie fog and trains as her boy charge is expelled from school without explanation. The cheeky children whisper about their previous, pretty governess – unbothered by screams, accidents, or dying maids. Melancholy piano music, graveyard echoes, dark figures amid the trees, and faces in the window build on the female isolation, yet all insist there are no ghosts – surely she’s just hysterical, overwrought, and obsessed with men. Rumors of suicide and a woman ruined by her lover seem proved by hidden pictures of the master’s up to no good valet, and tales of his violence among the unprotected women are better than seeing suspect flashbacks. The prim style degrades to loose hair and nightgowns as our governess jumps to dire conclusions and possessive delirium, but the shouting about it afterward with her doctor interruptions break the tainted picnics and frantic tension. We don’t need his sounding board to deduce her fears, just let us see the abusive violence and water perils. Crazy laughter and disembodied voices escalate as the phantoms, repression, and projection possibilities culminate in a one on one battle for the truth. The deviations here are flawed, and while the horror lite is fine for gothic period piece fans, some viewers will expect more than to have it both ways attempt at the ghosts and crazy ambiguity. This isn’t the best version but thanks to the cast and unique setting, it can be a good introduction for audiences who haven’t seen The Innocents.

 

For More Gothic Horrors visit:

Crimson Peak

Penny Dreadful 1 2 3

The Frankenstein Chronicles 1 2

Book Review: Blackwater Val by William Gorman

Blackwater Val  by William Gorman
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

This story revolves around a place called Blackwater Val. The main characters are Richard and his daughter Katie, who is six-years-old. He takes her back to where he is from to take care of some personal things. Richard realizes right away that he has forgotten a lot of his past, but that he is starting to slowly remember. Blackwater Val seems so normal at first, but strange things are starting to happen and a dark past is being uncovered. Although Richard starts to remember his past, what he thinks he knows is not always accurate or true and we learn along with Richard.

I found myself writing a list of what I perceived to be the monsters, ghosts, demons, or bad guys in the story. There seemed to be quite a few. I kept wondering who the bad guy was and was he controlling them all. I liked that even though I thought I knew who the bad guy was, it wasn’t that simple. The story also brought in true facts from the past about the Indians in the area and the wrong that was done to them. Although Blackwater Val is not a true place, the locations around it are. I also found myself looking up things on Google, wondering which parts were real and not. I can now officially say I know a lot more about Suak Indians.

This is a definite horror story and there is blood and guts aplenty. This is a classic good vs evil tale, but nothing is simple as lines are drawn and a battle unfolds. The details and story are clear and you will stay up and be kept engaged and rooting for the good guys to win. The story has several twists that will make you go, “Wow.” There is also an element of magic and special gifts introduced into the story. There is not really a romance in the story but it has a romantic element with a strong sense of family and friends.

The main evil in the story is very twisted and scary and relentless throughout the story. Clearly, Blackwater Val brings out the worst in some people. The author does a great job of bringing his characters to life and keeps you wondering how the story will end and who will come out okay. The story gives a good ending but leaves an opening that not all is settled and done. Can’t wait to read the sequel.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

Greetings HorrorAddicts and welcome to a new year! I plan to bring you some groovy reviews and righteous recommendations this year to keep your tuneage vibing. Or something like that. Despite the insanity that was 2020, many artists were able to come up with inspired material and I’ll share some great picks with you over the coming months. 

Vexillary is an instrumental project by New York based Reza Seirafi that was influenced by the artist’s love of blending components to create something new. A chemist in his other life, he likes to take seemingly inharmonious sounds and make them fit together. Tracks like “Maritime Panic” offer additional sonic adventures with each new listen. “Annihilation” has a manic feel that leaves the listener grasping at the elements and trying to find something to hold onto. There is a feeling of doom, especially in the opening notes of “Forged Skies” but this offering of electronica is never gloomy, and by the time you reach “The Geneticist,” the mad scientist vibe of the SurViolence is complete.

Vexillary is music for those who need an intense infusion with a side of chaos to make their aural journey complete. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. 

Want to share your favorite music from 2020? Comment below or email me at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com. The next Ro’s Recs will be less of a “best of” and more of a “here’s what you don’t want to miss.” I’ll see you soon, my HorrorAddict Darlings. In the meantime, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

Book Review: Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads

Review by Daphne Stasert

Content Warnings: Drug Use, Sex, Violence, Death, Suicide, Slavery, Assisted Suicide, Homophobia, Sex Work

With Unsafe Words, Loren Rhoads presents probably the most diverse set of stories that I’ve yet reviewed. Unsafe Words is not a collection of strictly horror, but explores fantasy and science fiction as well. Throughout, however, runs a thread of unease. Rhoads explores the darker sides of all her subjects. Regardless of whether the tales are set in a world of advanced technology, magic, aliens, or bad drug trips, Unsafe Words doesn’t flinch away from her examination of the human condition.

Drugs, sex, and music feature prominently throughout the stories. Frequently, they weave together. Drugs tint character reliability, blurring the line between reality and hallucination. Characters use drugs to escape their situation, to enhance it, and simply to exist. Rhoads attaches no value judgement to the use, but uses it to enrich the stories. Sex, in all its trappings, is a strong taboo for most readers. But Rhoads doesn’t shy from its use. Sex is good, it’s bad, it’s a fact of life for her characters. It’s a means to an end or an end all its own.  Music is a driving force, akin to hypnotism, drugs, or religion. Music washes over the characters like a drug high. It transcends their motivations. Characters are willing to die for music, kill for it.

Drugs, sex, and music may be the vehicle, but many of Rhoads’s stories primarily deal with the concept of love—new, mature, and dying. When does infatuation cross from curiosity to devotion? What would you do for someone that you love? Who or what would you betray? What do you do when grief runs out and turns instead to exhaustion and despair?

These stories are uncomfortable at times, but they’re meant to be that way. They force the reader to explore their own values and assumptions about the human condition. Even within the horror narratives, terror takes a backseat to introspection.

Rhoads revisits tired tropes through a new lens. New worlds and ideas turn familiar stories on their heads. She seamlessly includes science fiction and fantasy world building to freshen up stories. These worlds don’t take over the story, but serve as a unique backdrop.

If I have one complaint about Unsafe Words, it is simply that some of the stories are too short. Rhoads creates complex, immersive worlds that are busting with stories, but only explores a tiny portion of them, sometimes cutting off the story before it really even gets started. So many of these could be expanded into full novels and I hope that Rhoads takes that step in the future.

If you have a wide range of stories with excellent writing, you’ll enjoy Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Anything for Jackson

In the early morning hours of Jan 2nd 2021, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched:

Anything for Jackson 

Plotline: Satanist couple kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spellbook to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning more than they bargained for.

Who would like it: Fan of the occult, possessions, creature features, ppl who love monsters, and everybody who loves endings that keep you guessing

High Points: The strong storyline and original plot

Complaints: I don’t have any!

Overall: I super loved this movie!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

Asian Horror Month: Book Review/REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.

Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.

An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.

Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

Asian Horror Month: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

Review: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

If you think a ninja’s life is all about throwing stars and black pajamas, think again. For Chinese-Norwegian born Lily Wong, it’s a mixed bag of fighting domestic abuse, family dynamics and this little issue with the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob. No big deal.

Lily Wong is a heroine for modern times. Gutsy, humorous and bad*ss, she takes on injustice wherever she finds it, using her skills to defend women against those who would enslave them. Loads of action will keep readers turning pages faster than Lily can break a knee cap. There’s even a little romance thrown in to round out the story.

There’s more to Lily than martial arts, however. Author Tori Eldridge brings personal struggles to the table as Lily faces issues of being mixed race, loss of a loved one and how to preserve non-traditional values with a domineering grandmother. Despite her prowess with martial arts, Lily is far from being an inaccessible character. Flawed and conflicted, she’s easy to identify with.

I enjoyed being exposed to new concepts like the kunoichi, a female ninja. Unafraid to touch the hard topics of racism and human trafficking, Eldridge doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her series, The Ninja’s Blade. Lily will go to any means to protect those who would otherwise be victimized. If you are looking for a fast-paced action read with plenty of social value, Tori Eldrige’s Lily Wong series will not disappoint.

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Tori Eldridge is the bestselling author of The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong series), nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel and named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories have been published in horror, dystopian, and other literary anthologies, and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori’s screenplay The Gift earned a semi-finalist spot for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection. Look for the third book in the Lily Wong series in September 2021.

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About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Odds and Dead Ends: The Bloody Brilliance of Lady Snowblood (1973)

Article by Kieran Judge

Japan is not known for holding back when it comes to throwing around buckets of blood on screen. Not just limited to horror, the country’s samurai and revenge films are some of the bloodiest on record, and because there are often swords involved, it’s not just limited to splashes of red from bullet-wounds either. Lady Snowblood (Toshya Fujita) is a perfect example of this, featuring copious amounts of the red stuff gushing in geysers from slashes and stabs. But the film is much more than just a blood-fest, and is an interesting window onto Japanese society in the beginning of the Meiji Era, when the country was beginning to examine western ideas, moving from the feudalistic, pre-industrial country of old, into a nation that had changed almost indescribably by the era’s end.

            The story is one that has been told times before. Yuki, born in the first years of the Meiji Era (I believe 1873, give or take a year, according to my rough estimations), is raised to be an assassin who will one day track down her mother’s four abusers. The film follows the now named ‘Lady Snowblood’, as she follows the four trails, taking out each one in turn, until the final bloody climax. Based off a manga of the same name, it spawned a sequel, a spinoff, and had its legacy largely cemented in western culture when Quentin Tarantino used it as primary inspiration for Kill Bill (2003). It’s a kind of narrative we’re still seeing today, with a female assassin raised from birth for the sole purpose of murder, and anyone who hasn’t seen the stylish 2017 film The Villainess (Jung Byung-gil, South Korea), which in turn was inspired by the Luc Besson film La Femme Nikita (France, 1990), would do well to check it out for a fun, modern example of the narrative.

            Lady Snowblood has enough filmmaking technique going for it to make it a good watch on its own, and attention to the use of colour as part of its thematic expression is just part of it. Red is obviously a large feature in the film, and not just because of the severed hands and blood-splattered faces. After several flashbacks to Yuki’s birth, red light spills into the night, colouring the snow crimson. The women in the prison at her birth are all dressed in red, the floor of the palace in the finale is red, the kimono of the daughter of one of her targets is red; the symbolism is obvious. She is born to blood, which is said as much “poor child, you were born to vengeance”, and it is in red where the story ends. She can never escape it.

            It’s also no coincidence for her to take the name Snowblood, as the translation for ‘yuki’ is ‘snow’ (according to Google), a name given to her by her mother, just before passing after giving birth, after looking outside to the falling snow. Indeed, the purity of the colour white contrasts with the blood in many scenes. Our introduction to ‘present-day’ Yuki takes place in the snow, which ends in a violent bloodbath, and the film ends in the snow also. Yuki also wears a white kimono for much of the film, which, when contrasted with a red sash, demonstrates her attire as a reflection of herself. A pure woman forever destined to spill blood, for no other reason than that is what she was born to do. It might also reflect the death of her mother’s husband, whom the group killed before abducting her mother, who was wearing a white suit at the time.

            Perhaps of most interest from a cultural point of view, however, is how the film examines the growing western influence in the country in relation to the antagonists, especially Gishirō. Both he and Okono (two of the four being hunted) use pistols, the only two characters to do so. Okono’s policemen, which she uses to try and stop Yuki, are dressed in a western-inspired uniform, with gold buttons and shiny billed caps. Her relative rank and influence is coming as a direct response to assimilation of western technology and culture, whereas Yuki carries a parasol, dresses in a kimono, and uses a katana, as she has done all her life, all seen as traditional icons of Japan’s history.

            As mentioned before, Yuki’s ‘father’ was wearing a suit when killed. The film explains that government officials wore white when visiting the towns to draft young men for the war effort, and so the four villains of the story were running a scam to say that young men would escape the draft by paying them (they would then promptly vanish with the money). This plays into an excuse to rob and kill Yuki’s ‘father’, as a result of paranoia and hatred of men dressed in white. But, that he was wearing a suit specifically shows that the new era of exposure to western influences can unstable a nation’s people. A symbol of western society, it is seen as inherently threatening to a traditional way of life. By getting rid of someone dressed in attire of the world beyond their borders, which had been closed off for so long, the four align themselves as friends of the people, helping to persuade them to take up their scam. Thus their hypocrisy deepens as they themselves adopt similar dress in the later segments of the film. They will align themselves with anyone who help to further their own rank and influence.

            The finale at the masquerade ball is also interesting, as it is set up for dignitaries from all over the globe. From the ceiling are hung flags from countries all across the world, from the UK to Belgium to Greece, and Japan’s white flag and red circle is not exactly hung right in the middle of the room. The chandelier is definitely in the style of an aristocratic European mansion, some of the guests speak English, and once again, Yuki is attacked with a pistol. Yuki must go into this new world, still upholding a tradition of the past, straddling the strange, mixed ‘netherworld’, to accomplish her mission. That the villain’s final plunge from the balcony causes him to fall into, and drag down, the Japanese flag, is perfectly apt. Draped in the colours of white and red (just like Yuki herself), Japan’s past has taken revenge for exploiting the incoming influence of the West for personal, nefarious gain, and not for the unilateral gain of all.

            Thus, not only is Lady Snowblood very entertaining, stylish, and well shot, but is very much a story which could only be told about this country and about this period of its history. Through the bodily dismemberments and fountains of blood is a reflection of a nation’s exposure to radical change, and the chaos that this can bring about when some seek to exploit it for ill-gain. If horror fans are looking for a little change of pace to their usual demonic possessions and serial killings, this bloody tale of revenge should certainly be sought out and savoured.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month we’re listening to the Dark Wave artist Dissonance. Cat Hall has a new maxi-single that’s perfect for fans of bands like GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS & INFORMATION SOCIETY. Precipice is a techno-moody piece that is very personal to Hall. Music helps us heal from the tragedies in our lives, and for Hall, it’s been a form of catharsis. After a serious health battle, she’s come out on the other side to share her emotional experience in these three pieces. With remixes by Joe Haze, Diverje, Junior Kain, and Machines with Human Skin all add layers to the composition. Reminiscent of Tubular Bells or early Depeche Mode, Precipice is music to sit with and contemplate. Each element woven together, whether it be effects or harmonies, all evoke feelings of loss and yet are ultimately hopeful. 

Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you and yours are well. I’d love to hear what kind of music is getting you through this tumultuous time. If you want to hear what I’ve been listening to, you can check out my #SpotifyWrapped. If you’re not on Spotify yet, you might want to change that in 2021. Getting a report on your listening habits can be…creepy, but also a great trip down memory lane. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her at www.queeromanceink.com writing about Hope, Love and Queeromance. 

Asian Horror Month: BLACK CRANES : A Review in Verse

 

BLACK CRANES: A REVIEW IN VERSE

Tales of Unquiet Women

From voices no longer silent

In this anthology of Asian narratives

Ranging from hilarious, to haunting and violent

A frisson towards an immersive journey

Headlined by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

Not merely stories, but an assemblage of shared experiences

And teamwork presented by Omnium Gatherum

Alma Katsu leads the proceedings

Of what follows and what to expect

Asian, women, and horror

Tales of identity, expectation and neglect;

Obligations, traditions, duties and more

Scientists, warriors, princesses, spirits

We can be many things

But we cannot be defeated

A haunting foreword sets the tone

For Elaine Cuyegkeng to kick off with a bang

Pandora’s box of gene editing

Or more attuned to a boomerang;

Snipping out traits and replacing preferential ones

Rarefied offspring too good to be true?

There’s always a price to pay

Specimens or daughters? Are we a ‘what’ or ‘who’?

Nadia Bulkin marshals an uprising 

With Indonesian history and folklore

A princess’s people retrieving her throne

A fight and reclamation at its core;

Who is monster and who is human?

Questions Kapre in his chronicle

Rin Chupeco’s unique love story

Depicts a tale heartwarming and ironical

Beauty, cosmetics, enhancements galore

Two tales from Angela Yuriko Smith

How far would you go to be yourself no more?

Sci-fi abounds; this isn’t myth

White on the outside, yellow within

Patchwork eyes and warring factions all over

Whom do we belong to if we don’t belong at all?

Gift recipient or pushover?

Grace Chan makes a two-fold mark

With hunger and fury, suspicion and doubt

Gabriella Lee’s rites of passage

Aspects of womanhood poured out;

The legend of the nine-tailed fox

Of trickster entities and lotus feet

Rena Mason presents womanhood again

As past, present and future accrete

Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

In their dual roles of editor and writer

Lend duality with contrasting themes

From heartbreak to horror, and lighter;

Caring for an ailing parent,

A mind-blowing take on pets,

A litmus test of acceptance,

Words – their shining assets

Set the clock ahead with Christina Sng

As we time travel to a zombie apocalypse

An ode to women in the military

Fury is not one to be eclipsed;

The fury of sacrifices to accommodate 

Meeting the expectations of others

Hollowed versions of ourselves

Emptied out; unconsidered druthers

With stories of folklore and legend

From the common to the esoteric

Across geography and culture

From charming to barbaric;

Returning to one’s roots

Or imagining a far-fetched world

From the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore

China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand;

Asian women from wherever they might be 

Scattered across place and time

Breaking notions and stereotypes

That living is not a crime;

There’s no single type of woman

No all-encompassing concept of Asian

The multifaceted identities of horror

And the stories of women who experience their own versions.

                                      ~Renata Pavrey

                                        December 2020

Ranata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

 

Live Action Reviews! By Crystal Connor: May The Devil Take You, Too.

At 3:37 am on November 8th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: May The Devil Take You, Too!

Viewer discretion Advised

Plotline: Two years after escaping from a demonic terror, Alfie and Nara try to continue their lives, but Alfie is still haunted by feelings of guilt and unnatural visions.

Who would like it: Everyone who loved the 1st movie, fans of occult films, possessions, gore hounds, Fx fans, and international horror movies

High Points:This was a really good sequel with a original story line from the 1st.

Complaints: None!

Overall: Love it…better than the 1st

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not reviewing indie horror and science fiction films for HorrorAddicts she’s terrorizing her fans with new written horrors and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences.

Historian of Horror: For Freaky Foodies Month / Food, Goriest Food

Food, Goriest Food!

They tell me this is Freaky Foodie Month here at HorrorAddicts.net, so I’ve wandered down into the kitchen area of the basement laboratory and cobbled together a tasty little treat that I hope will satisfy the palate of even the most discriminating connoisseur de frissons. And yes, there will be dessert. I call this offering: 

Submitted for Your Approval – A Man with No Upper Lip

Rod Serling got his start as a writer by winning a radio contest, after spending a few years in the Pacific Theater jumping out of airplanes in order to expedite the extermination of Japanese soldiers. He gradually worked his way up to the new medium of television in time for what is considered its Golden Age, a period when every evening brought Great Dramas into the homes of millions of Americans. Serling wrote his fair share of those Great Dramas, including Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Both were later made into movies and are considered high points of that Golden Age.

This was all heady stuff for a decorated war veteran and one of early television’s cadre of angry young men, but Serling wanted more. He yearned for a vessel into which he could pour his social concerns about censorship, racism, and war, and maybe exorcise the psychological demons left over from his military service. Alas, comfortable and complacent Middle America wasn’t ready to have its collective face shoved into its sins, and so a more allegorical approach was called for. 

The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959. For five years, Serling, along with collaborators Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, created a series of little morality plays couched in the more palatable tropes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales. And then, it was gone, cancelled by the suits, only to reappear in the realm of perpetual syndication, where it lives on even today. Sixties television devolved into an endless parade of sitcoms, many of them with a supernatural bent; westerns; shoot-em-up action dramas; variety shows; spoofs of comic books and spy movies; and body counts from the Vietnam War on the evening news.

Like the War, the Sixties slopped over into the next decade. Popular music continued on much as before, not yet sullied by the arrival of disco. The usual array of genres persisted on television. And the news was still just as depressing as ever. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Serling spent the second half of the Sixties much as he had the Fifties, writing dramas for a medium that had turned out to be too small for him. He wrote a successful teleplay about an airline high-jacking, and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that was as weighted towards modern concerns as the original story was towards the social ills of the Victorian Era. He created a high-brow western series called The Loner that only lasted one season, and lent his distinctive voice and stiff-upper-lip visage to a number of commercials. 

At the end of the decade, he came up with a made-for-TV movie superficially similar to his last great success. Night Gallery was an anthology of three spooky stories, more horror-based than Twilight Zone ever was. Serling introduced each tale by revealing a painting inspired by it. Hence, the ‘gallery’ part of the title. The middle section, Eyes, starring Joan Crawford, was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was his first professional media job, and very nearly her last. Her final performance came a few years later in Night Gallery’s spin-off series, The Sixth Sense. More on that, and her, and him later in this space. Stay tuned!

Night Gallery was picked up for regular broadcast in 1971, one of a set of four titles that rotated weekly episodes as part of what was called a wheel series. The other show that survived Four in One’s only season was the fish-out-of-water detective show McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver. McCloud moved over into another wheel series with two other long-running mysteries, Columbo and McMillan and Wife. Night Gallery went into regular production as a weekly program. Win for Serling! 

But not quite as much as before. More of the same, but less, I’m afraid. This is not to say that Night Gallery wasn’t a good program; it was. It just wasn’t The Twilight Zone. But then, what was? Not even a major motion picture and a couple of revival series have been able to recapture that particular lightning-bolt-in-a-bottle. 

It might have helped had Serling been able to exert more creative control than he was allowed, but that was not to be. Still, Night Gallery is not a series to be brushed aside without due consideration. It adapted some of the great stories in the genre, including works by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, Algernon Blackwood and Robert Bloch, and by Serling’s old pal from Twilight Zone days, Richard Matheson. 

Christianna Brand is not a name well-known to horror enthusiasts, I suspect. She was a mystery writer of some renown, but she only wrote enough horror tales to fill one collection, What Dread Hand?, published in 1968. One of the yarns therein, ‘The Sins of the Fathers’, first appeared, as far as I have been able to ascertain, in The Fifth Pan Book of Horror Stories. It was edited by Herbert van Thal four years previously. If you’re not familiar with this delightful series of anthologies, I urge you to haunt whatever used paperback vendors you have available to you and track down as many editions as you can get your talons into. I shall have more to say later on regarding the estimable Mijnheer van Thal, but for now, the dish upon the table is getting cold. And a little, um, congealed. 

Mangiamo!

Sin eating is an old practice found in Wales and those English counties bordering Wales, in which a poor person would be hired for a nominal sum to dine upon bread and ale placed atop the corpse of a recently deceased sinner as it lay in state. The sins of the late reprobate would transfer, through the bread and ale, to the soul of the diner, preventing the lamented one from wandering the Earth as a vengeful spirit. The question remains, what of the sins of the sin eater, both original, and those acquired through gustation? What keeps that worthy in his grave? Therein lies the tale.

‘Sins of the Father’ was one of two stories presented in the second episode of Night Gallery’s second season, airing on February 23, 1972. It starred, among others, Barbara Steele, she of the vast, magnetizing eyes long familiar to horror aficionados from her performances in such classic terror films as Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Ghost. Frequent Oscar nominee and future winner Geraldine Page was along for the bumpy ride, as well, along with soon-to-be John-Boy Walton Richard Thomas, former Batman butler Alan Napier, and Michael Dunn, who had just recently completed a long run as master villain Dr. Miguelito Loveless on the classic spy-western show, The Wild Wild West.

Dunn scours the Welsh countryside on half of his master, who lies three days dead, covered in a feast of lamb and cakes and cheeses. The servant is in search of a sin eater, one who has not already succumbed to the plague and famine ravaging the land. With time running out, he finds his last option too sick with disease and hunger to travel the distance, but that sin eater has a son. The boy absconds with the food without taking on the sins of the dead man, but when he returns home, finds his own father dead. Where are that sin eater’s sins to go, but into the starving mouth of the next one in line?

Not so horrifying in the brief description, perhaps, but like any fine meal, there’s so much more in the presentation. Even better, every name mentioned above has a genre pedigree that dates back, in some cases, into the silent era. Lots of material for future installments. 

I did mention dessert, yes? Well, Stanley Ellin is another mystery writer of historical significance who dabbled in the macabre. His first published short story, ‘Specialty of the House’, is one of those that really sticks to the ribs, so to speak. A restaurant that caters to a very particular clientele offers an occasional specialty that only the best customers get to sample, or participate in the preparation thereof. Creepiness is on the menu, served with healthy dollop of frisson on the side.

‘Specialty of the House’ has been reprinted in dozens of periodicals, collections and anthologies since it was first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in the May, 1948 issue. It was adapted to television during the fifth season of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents show and broadcast on December 13, 1959, and on the revival of that series on March 21, 1987. Robert Morley, whose turn upon the spit in Theatre of Blood also involves food, stars. That classic film deserves its own lengthy consideration, rather than a superficial glossing over here, so more on that later.

The first one is available for viewing here:

In the early Seventies, Vincent Price was among several stars who were part of an attempted revival of old-time radio in the modern era. His BBC program, The Price of Fear, featured an adaptation of the yarn on April 13th, 1974. It can be found on You Tube or in the Internet Archives. Worth seeking out!

So, there it is. Hope you enjoyed my little concoction. Would you like an aperitif? A little libation to wash it all down with? Don’t worry, there will be more coming, perhaps sooner than you think. Stay blood-thirsty, my friends. And, as always –

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Book Review: LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher

I was drawn to LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher with the promises of a spooky old house and possibly some ghosts. What I found was a spooky YA Thriller with so many different types of paranormal activity, I didn’t really know what was going on until the last moment and even now, I still have questions. Perhaps there will be a sequel. 

Camille is an Aussie teenager whose parents move her to their ancestral home in England during her most formative high school years. A bit of culture shock isn’t the biggest thing for her to deal with when it seems she’s moved into a haunted house. If not haunted, it does have some secrets to tell. 

LeRoux Manor is a legend in her new town, mostly known for a dinner party that went awry years ago. With the help of some new school friends and a crush named Lachlan, Camille pieces together parts of a puzzle in search of answers as to why her family wanted her parents to give her away and why she shares the birthday of an old ancestor who went missing and has never been found.

While reading, I did find myself wondering if Camille was crazy. Was she just imagining things, or was the house actually making her see things that weren’t there? Who is the woman in the woods she spies from her bedroom window? Why did Lachlan’s Uncle disappear after visiting the estate? What exactly is that weird being reaching out of the large wardrobe in her bedroom? Who’s the little kid skittering around the attic?

This book reads very YA, but for those of you who adore spooky houses like I do, you might not mind. For fans of The Haunting, The Woman in Black, and The Haunting of Bly Manor, you’ll be thrilled with spooky middle of the night snooping, phantom earthquakes, and creepy servants lurking about. With jump scares that would be more at home on film, I was only mildly caught off-guard in the beginning, but as the teen’s experience more and more strange occurrences on an all-night fear-fest, their fear becomes contagious like the scare you might have experienced at camp when someone told a ghost story around the campfire. 

Freaky Foodies: from Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Cannibals vs Cannibals

Plotline: Somos Lo Que Hay vs. We Are What We are 

Who would like it: The people who would like both movies fans of Coming of Age stories, Zombies, Twisted Families and gore hounds. 

High Points:  —

Complaints:  —

Overall: Preferred Somos Lo Que Hay over the remake We Are What We are 

Stars: No Rating 

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Strain Season 2 and 3

Real World Trauma Acerbates the flaws in The Strain Seasons Two and Three

by Kristin Battestella

After an unraveling end to the First Season of The Strain, it took me a long, long while to return to the thirteen-episode 2015 Second Season. Childhood flashbacks recounting fairy tales of nobles with gigantism and quests for the curing blood of a gray wolf start the year off well. Horrific blood exchanges lead to village children vanishing in the shadow of the creepy castle before we return to the present for secret deals with The Master, alliances with the Ancient Ones, and blind telepathic feeler vampires canvassing the city. Scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) contemplate vampire vaccines while former antique dealer Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) pursues a rare strigoi text and rat catcher Fet (Kevin Durand) prepares their explosive defensive. Government officials like Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) fight back against the zombie like masses despite shootouts in infested laboratories, double-crosses, and sentient, disguised as human foot soldiers. Old fashioned black and white Mexican horror reels add personality and history to our reluctant heroes while more superb action and flashbacks standout late in the season with “The Assassin” and “Dead End.” Unfortunately, early on in Year Two, my main dilemma with the First Season of The Strain returnedyou can read all of this, but it is much too much onscreen. Unnecessary timestamps and location notations clutter reintroduced characters, new problems, old problems, and unintroduced newcomers. There are too many separated characters with unbalanced screen time who must repeatedly explain who they are. Enemy’s enemy is my friend mixed motivations create confusion – multiple people hunting The Master individually making promises to his fellow ancient vampires with little background on who these chained monsters chilling beneath Brooklyn are. Cryptic double talk and real estate transactions may be filler or meandering developments, but it’s a toss up on which one will drag on or disappear. The past stories are often more tantalizing because our team isn’t much of a team. It took so long in the First Year to get everyone together, yet each is still toiling over what to do in this vampire zombie apocalypse. After previous fears over any tiny contagion, one and all shoot, blast, slice, and splatter at will. They hand out fliers with the monster details and warn the community, yet unaware police are shocked to find vampires in a dark alley.

Maybe The Strain is meant to mirror how no one is on the same page in a crisis – we are now witnessing that chaotic misinformation mistake first hand indeed – but the plot is all over the place, too. It’s been a few weeks onscreen since The Strain began, however, life is upside down for some while others seem totally unbothered. Again, this is a foreboding parallel to our real life pandemic with the poor working man much more deeply impacted than the wealthy ease of access, but here there’s no sense of the storytelling scope despite opportunistic orchestrations and tough women securing the five boroughs. Slick villains talk of great visions and master plans, but tangents diverge into a dozen different threads and multiple dead ends. Is The Strain about a doctor experimenting on the infected to test scientific theories or weird do nothing telepathic vampires and slow strigoi chases? Are we to enjoy the precious moments between our little people struggling on the ground or awe at the zombie outbreak turned vampire mythology? New people and places are constantly on the move, jumbled by an aimless, plodding pace as too little too late politicians talk about quarantines when The Strain is past containment. Confusing, pointless storylines take away from important intrigues and significant elements tread tires amid random threats and dropped crises. The conflicts on cruel science for the greater good grow hollow thanks to constant interruptions and changed emotions. Provocative diluted worm extracts taken for illness or ailments are used as control by the strigoi or when necessary for our heroes, but the scientific analysis of such a tonic or hybrid cases is never considered. Infecting the infected experiments and vampire free island security only take a few episodes, yet viewers today who can’t pay the rent are expected to believe it takes weeks for a market free fall and runs on banks? “The Born” starts off great, but often there’s no going back to what happens next regarding cures and Roman history as contrived messy or blasé action pads episodes. Rather than driving away in a cop car, dumbed down characters run into a church for a lagging, maze-like battle that kills an interesting minority character. When the community comes together for “The Battle for Red Hook,” unnecessary family pursuits ruin the sense of immediacy while the hop, skip, and jump to Washington D.C. for two episodes of scientific effort gets ditched for glossed over vampire factions and historic relics. Both the lore and science are interesting, but these mashed together entities compete for time as if we’re changing the channels and watching two shows at once. Instead of the rich detail we crave, The Strain continually returns to its weakest plot with shit actions and stupid players causing absurd consequences.

The Strain, however, does look good, and the ten episode Third Season provides coffins, gore, goo, and nasty bloodsucking appendages. The vampire makeup, creepy eyes, monster sinews, and icky skin are well done. Occasionally, creatures scaling the wall and speedy, en masse action is noticeable CGI, but the worms, tentacles, and splatter upset the body sacred. Sickly green lighting invokes the zombie plague mood while choice red adds vampire touches alongside silver grenades, ultraviolet light, and ancient texts. Sadly, Season Three opens with an unrealistic announcement that it’s only been twenty-three days since the outbreak started. The uneven pace makes such time impossible to believe, and tricked out infrared military are just now arriving three weeks into the disaster. Mass manufacture of The Strain’s bio-weapon is also never mentioned again as the science is now nothing more than a home chemistry set. Instead, step by step time is taken to siphon gas in a dark, dangerous parking garage – which could be realistic except The Strain has never otherwise addressed food, supplies, precious toilet paper, or the magically unlimited amount of silver bullets. Once again, everyone who fought together goes on to separate allegiances on top of hear tell global spread, Nazi parallels, control centers, and messianic symbolism. It’s all too clunky thanks to people made stupid and contradictions between the onscreen myths, technology, and abilities. Too many convenient infections, Master transformations, tacked on worms, and excuses happen at once – cheapening Shakespearean touches and monster worm bombs with redundant failures. Montages wax on human history while voiceovers tell audiences about government collapse, glossing over arguably the most interesting part of the catastrophe for drawn-out experiments on microwaves. There’s no narrative flow as the episodes run out but suddenly everyone is sober enough to use the ancient guidebook to their advantage. After such insistence over sunlight and ultraviolet, those safeguards are inexplicably absent when needed. No one maximizes resources and opportunities in “Battle for Central Park,” and people only come together because they accidentally bump into each other. In “The Fall,” a carefully orchestrated trap and prison plan is finally put into action against The Master, but ridiculous contrivances stall the operation before easy outs and one little effing asshole moron ruining it all. Again.

The cast is not at fault for the uneven developments on The Strain, but if Ephraim Goodweather is only there to be a drunken bad parent failing at every turn, he should have been written off the show. If we’re sticking with Eph and his angst before science, then his pointless strigoi wife and terrible son Zach should have been tossed instead of hogging the screen. Cranky, obnoxious, budding sociopath Zach’s “Why? No! Don’t!” lack of comprehension is unrealistic for his age, and everything has to be dumbed downed to appease him.  Onscreen The Strain is continually talking down to viewers like we are five and it gets old very fast. Previously compassionate characters are reset as cold marksmen, and Eph claims he no longer cares about the cause when he was once at its epicenter. He complains he has nothing to do, bemoaning the lack of a feasible vaccine before gaining government support in creating a strigoi bio-weapon only to ditch it for microwaves and vampire telepathy. Zach ruins each plan anyway, and by the end of Season Two, I was fast forwarding over the Goodweather family plots. Nora Martinez is also nonexistent as a doctor unless convenient, relegated instead to babysitting, and Samantha Mathis’ (Little Women) Justine Feraldo likewise starts off brassy before unnecessarily overplaying her hand and failing bitterly because of others. Initially The Strain had such a diverse ensemble, but by the end of the Third Season, all the worst things have happened to the women and minorities. Ruta Gedmintas’ Dutch wavers from the cause for a conflicted lesbian romance that disappears before she returns to the fold as Eph’s tantalizing research assistant when she’s not being captured and rescued. I won’t lie, I only hung on watching The Strain as long as I did for Rupert Penry-Jones (MI-5) as the thousand year old hybrid Quinlan. He uses his conflicted history with The Master to help Setrakian and sees through Ephraim while developing a distrustful shoulder to shoulder with Fet. Unfortunately, his vampire super powers come in handy unless he’s forgotten about when it’s time for the action to sour or let failures happen, and nobody tells officials about this almost invincible half-strigoi who could be useful in a fight. Setrakian, Quinlan, and Fet make for an ornery, begrudging trio, living in a luxury hotel while pursuing Abraham’s relics whether they agree with the plan or not – mostly because Fet accrues all manor of weapons and is happy to use them. Setrakian has some crusty wisdom for them, but his battle of wits with Jonathan Hyde as the at any price Palmer provides great one on one scene chewing. The double crosses and interchangeable threats feel empty, and Palmer also has an odd romantic side plot that wastes time, but Richard Sammel’s Nazi vampire Eicchorst remains a deliciously twisted minion. “Dead End” and “Do or Die” reveal more personal history as the mature players provide intriguing questions on immortality, humanity, and barbarism. Miguel Gomez’ Gus finally seems like he is going to join the team, but then he’s inexplicably back on his own rescuing families and refusing to accept his mother’s turn in more useless filler. He and Joaquin Cosio (Quantum of Solace) as the absolutely underutilized fifties superhero Angel are conscripted to fight vampires but once again, they remain wasted in isolated, contrived detours.

Streamlining Fet, Dutch, Quinlan, and Gus as vampire fighters testing methods from Setrakian’s texts and Eph’s science funded by Feraldo could have unified The Strain with straightforward heroes versus monsters action we can root for in an apocalypse. Watching on the eve of our own real world pandemic, was I in the right frame of mind to view The Strain unclouded? Thanks to creators Guillermo de Toro and Chuck Hogan and showrunner Carlton Cuse’s foretelling social breakdowns between the haves and the have nots, maybe not. That said, The Strain terribly executes two seasons worth of source material. An embarrassment of riches with a scientific premise, mystical flashbacks, assorted zombie and vampire crossover monsters, and intriguing characters fall prey to uneven pacing, crowded focus, and no balance or self-awareness onscreen. The Strain may have been better served as television movies or six episode elemental seasons – science in year one, vampire history the second, relic pursuits, and a final battle. Disastrous characters and worthless stories compromise the meaty sacrifices, crusty old alliances, and silver standoffs – stretching the horror quality thin even in a shorter ten episode season. Rather than a fulfilling mirror to nature parable, The Strain Seasons Two and Three are an exercise in frustration, and even without the real world horrors, it’s too disappointing to bother with the end of the world reset in Season Four.

For More Frightening Television or more Guillermo del Toro, Re-visit:

All Things Dracula Video Review

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Crimson Peak

 

Latinx Month – FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Mexican and Spanish Vampires!

Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My!  By Kristin Battestella

The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.

Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.  Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences. 

The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.

The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.

The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here.  Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.

The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night!  Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy.  Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie.  There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing.  Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating.  For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt. 

For More Vampires, Visit:

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Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Deeper You Dig

Plotline: Ivy and Echo are not your typical mother-daughter team. Ivy, once an intuitive psychic, makes an easy buck as a bogus tarot card reader; 14-year-old Echo likes old-timey music, hunting, and black lipstick. When reclusive Kurt moves down the road to restore an abandoned farmhouse, an accident leads to Echo’s murder, and suddenly three lives collide in mysterious and wicked ways. Kurt assumes he can hide his secret under the ground. But Echo burrows into his head until he can feel her in his bones. As she haunts his every move, trying to reach her mother from beyond, Ivy must dig deep to see the signs and prove that love won’t stay buried.

Who would like it: Fans of mind-bending atmospheric films, witches, tarot cards, mother and daughter movies, revenge, and movies about possessions.     

High Points: The sheer originality! 

Complaints: None

Overall: Love this shit out of this!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

Darkest Hours is a collection of horror short stories by Mike Thorn.

Content Warnings: gore

Darkest Hours presents a combination of realistic and supernatural stories, running the absolute gamut of subjects. The variety in stories is astounding. Thorn succeeds with visceral, gory body horror as well as psychological tension and cerebral, philosophical horror. He addresses traditional tropes and creates entirely new nightmares for his readers.

Darkest Hours gets off to a stomach-churning start with “Hair”. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it through the rest of the book if it was going to all be like that. Fortunately for me, the following stories didn’t go after my gag reflex in such a way. “Long Man” and “Economy These Days” were stand-out performers in an already excellent line-up. “Long Man” took a traditional childhood fear and made it the sort of nightmare that sticks with you. “Economy These Days” was a unique and brutal look at modern struggles.

There is an academic leaning in some of the stories—one that can, at times, be a little patronizing. But Thorn writes the characters well, clearly drawing on personal experiences in university and graduate life. No matter what, Thorn keeps all of his stories short and tight, starting right in the action and leaving just enough room to build to the climax. His endings are superb, clinching the story at just the right moment.

Darkest Hours is a wonderful introduction to Mike Thorn as a writer. He’s created a wonderful collection of riveting stories. If you like small bites of horror, please pick Darkest Hours up.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: 12 Hour Shift.

Plot: t’s 1999 and over the course of one 12 hour shift at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse, her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals start a heist that could lead to their imminent demises.

Who would Like it: Fans of dark comedies, gorehounds, and fans of thrillers!

High PointsWith all the gore, off the charts plots and comedy this will probably end up being a cult favorite.

ComplaintsIt’s not horror.

OverallI liked it, it was super fun

Stars3 and 1/2

Where I watched itScreener  

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

 

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 2

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two is Brimming with Monster Quality

By Kristin Battestella

The 2017 six-episode Second Season of The Frankenstein Chronicles picks up three years after the twisted events of its Debut Series as Sean Bean’s supposedly dead Inspector John Marlott pursues Lord Hervey (Ed Stoppard) for his monstrous science while Sergeant Joseph Nightingale (Richie Campbell) investigates the gruesome murders of several parish officials as new mad machinations and corrupt officials collide.

It’s 1830 and disturbed flashes of what has transpired match the Bedlam catatonic in “Prodigal Son.” Jailers think this case is hopeless, for the angry, rattling chains can’t tell of the heartbeats, fires, agony, and horrors. Silent screams, gory garrotings, and escapes lead to the abandoned laboratory with cracked mirrors, empty bottles, and lingering phantoms. The Frankenstein Chronicles refreshes the audience whilst the characters themselves struggle with the previous experiments, former pain, and fresh dilemmas as a murdered archdeacon sends fear through the local parish. The poor cannot feed their families on faith alone, but the Dean maintains his luxury by hampering the police with jurisdiction technicalities. New cemetery bills don’t stop grave robbing schemes, and cruel high versus kind lows are firmly established in the multi-layered mysteries and investigations. Despite a sophisticated period mood, church fires, eviscerating shocks, and eerie figures with lone candles always remind viewers of the morose horror drama. London is run amok with slicing and dicing nobles on The Frankenstein Chronicles, and there’s no solace for “Not John Marlott” as more bloody crimes begat missing organs, epidemics, and piled bodies. Creepy dreams and laughing visions add to the on edge, ghosts approach former friends, and headlines say the escaped lunatic is responsible for these unholy murders. Local parish watchmen rebuff inspectors, and back-alley deals lead to corpse bearer job opportunities and intriguing new characters. Desecrated bodies are dug up and moved to pits – clearing the graveyards for people who can pay more for sacred ground. Mirrors and reflections create more soulful questions as the dead man walking sees the naked, animalistic internal monster. Shrouds, vaults, torches, and coffins keep The Frankenstein Chronicles on the morbid move in “Seeing the Dead.” Our former detective has his own underground investigation amid the church bells, empty steeples, and plague-ridden alongside tender moments and a real life famous name or two. Dead children abound, and families that can’t afford consecrated burials paint crosses on their doors to honor the deceased while a carnival caravan arrives with freaks and re-enactments of Frankenstein. Politicians argue about burial taxes, and motives for the murders include selling off church properties, twisted science, and blaming the devil. Who’s clearing the slums and pocketing the money? It isn’t God who’s brought this pestilence, but men of science playing with God’s power. Black horses, night owls playing the piano by candlelight, and men talking of the final nail in the coffin add symbolic subtext while dreams, monster memories, and ghosts provide clues. Superstitious fears and wrongful medicine clash thanks to sewers, sailors, on stage within Frankenstein horrors, and knife fights behind the curtain. Autopsies, methodical precision, and poisoned pumps hone in on the contaminated truth – revelations perhaps made more disturbing by the water crises happening in America today.

Old inspectors and suspicious aristocrats meet face to face in “Little Boy Lost” amid fancy balls and false sermons waxing on demons and souls. Unfortunately, the truth is blasphemy, and quarantined ships send the sick to die in abandoned buildings behind chained doors – making for some silently terrifying scenes of garish dead haunting the corridors. Messengers from religious officials come baring knives in the back, leading to bloody struggles and gurgling groans. The innocent must flee in chases through the streets and leaps across rooftops, contrasting the footmen and tête-à-têtes on the ballroom balcony. Lifelike machines and automaton displays escalate the mad science amidst more grief, twists about who is real or phantom, and dead babies in jars. Thanks to town mobs and persecutions, circus folk with cut out tongues are arrested just because they fit the description of monsters, but ominous staircases descend to bright laboratories, creepy equipment, and shocking revelations with touching supernatural moments linking our characters. Politicians using the poor and too good to be true health plans in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” again mirror the contemporary political climate as scary ideologies hide in plain sight. Be it illness or slit throats, people in this era don’t live very long, and officials double-cross each other to fill the void left by the dying King. Likewise, constables and the press are at odds over evidence and thin leads as all roads point to monstrous men throwing their own to the dogs if it suits their toys, tears, and conspiracies. Blocks of ice are used to store organs alongside secret formulas, memento mori, psychic encounters, and plans to escape to the continent. Chilling confrontations trap the unwilling in the choice to be reborn, for more things are possible than what God can do according to our seemingly sacrosanct gentleman. Stone towers contain romantic rooms draped in white soon to host some serious butchery, transformations, and abominations. Why wait to rekindle what one’s lost in God’s time when life’s mysteries can come full circle now? Wounds and spirited intervention culminate in “Bride of Frankenstein” as lies, gags, and convulsions reunite our firstborn with the reanimation process. Life-giving elixirs, breathing apparatus, and unique tissues lead to coastal visions and life or death limbo. Our murder victims got in the way of political ambitions so now their bodies are being put to good use. There’s no need to make apologies when sacrificing for science! Once again The Frankenstein Chronicles builds its crimes and mysteries before escalating to full-on horror. Raids, arrests, and eponymous resurrections mean nothing when death is not the end for men who live forever in a world without God. However loose ends must be tied up, and another corpse on the church steps leads to confessions, ironic justice, and science preventing the dead from staying deceased in an excellent denouement of amoral horrors.

He’s angry, doesn’t know his own strength, and vows revenge, yet Sean Bean’s former inspector John Marlott remains haunted by his past. Initially he doesn’t speak much, only “I was abandoned by God,”– which sums up The Frankenstein Chronicles quite well. Marlott insists he isn’t who he was, for whether he was a man of kindness and justice or not, he received neither. Marlott feels forsaken since his family has gone on without him, yet he finds solace and a clean bed in a church and recognizes psalms of mercy when he hears them. Unfortunately, he can’t look himself in the mirror, and any peace is quickly ruined by tragedy. Marlott moves on, pushing away the living because everyone around him winds up dead. He becomes a corpse bearer and calls himself Jack Martins, revisiting places he once frequented to prove his innocence despite nightmares that seem to indicate otherwise. Marlott is disturbed by all the death he sees and talks to ghostly guests from Series One, but he’s more upset that he cannot see the spirits of his own wife and daughter. Marlott gives his coins to orphans and poor families so they can bury their dead properly and helps the sick households by doing their cleaning and hard labor, becoming the ironic hero of Pye Street roaming the slums at night – a foreboding grim reaper silhouette escorting a wagon of the dead to their mass grave. He tells people to flee the plague but ultimately ends up communing with their lingering spirits in superbly haunting moments. He cannot help the ghosts who torment him, but Marlott is deeply sorry for all the souls he seemingly damned. Forgiveness, however, may be found in the darkest places, and Marlott comes to accept he can live to do good even if he is not blessed. The Frankenstein Chronicles provides fascinating winks at Bean’s walking spoiler onscreen image amid chilling declarations, strong demands for vengeance, and tearful displays. Granted I am biased – and I still think Marlott is Sharpe – but Sean Bean seems to have become a better, more seasoned actor with age, and it is a pity The Frankenstein Chronicles received no awards notice for his excellent performance.

Though now a sergeant, Richie Campbell’s Joseph Nightingale is assigned to a seemingly routine escape from Bedlam rather than a murder higher up officials want forgotten. He’s a lot like Marlott, actually, getting praised for his initiative, punished for his insistence, and circumventing orders to find out about Marlott’s surprise reappearance. Joe must still deal with racism from above and below and knows he’s being stonewalled once victims’ bodies are removed before he can inspect them – leaving Nightingale no choice but to get the truth at a terrible price. Ryan Sampson’s fast talking Boz is still a reporter for the chronicle, chastised by Nightingale for writing outlandish reports to scare the public but shocked when the dead Marlott comes to see him. He wants Marlott’s surely fantastic story, and remains unfettered in his outrageous reporting, because the truth that victims are having their hearts cut out is supposed to scare people less? Although grossed out by the autopsy reports, he’s reluctant to give up his sources until their differing private exams prove they want him to print lies. Boz believes Marlott when he tells him there is a poisoning scheme in the works, but says he should do the talking when they poke around at the inquest. Charles Dickens ends up bombing around London with Frankenstein’s Monster – one of many fascinating what ifs on The Frankenstein Chronicles. Laurence Fox’s (Lewis) Mr. Dipple, meanwhile, is a creepy, reclusive aristocrat overly concerned with weird marionettes, music boxes, machine models, and masks. He’s become enamored with contraptions because he is afraid to live, seemingly tender or sensitive but suspect when he asks guests to keep an open mind about what they see. The character embodies several contemporary ills viewers will recognize – saying one thing but doing another for his own purpose , which is to have power over death and grief. Sadly, Maeve Dermody (Carnival Row) as kind, widowed seamstress Esther Rose is unknowingly caught in the middle when taking in Marlott while commissioned to make dresses for Dipple’s dolls. She buys clothes off the dead to re-sell to poor, not so particular customers and gives Marlott back his own effects. There’s not much difference between her craft and stitching him up when he’s injured, either. She’s glad to have him protect her shop, for Esther thinks she is weak, afraid to live, and too nervous when invited to a ball showcasing her work. She’s glad when Dipple calls her designs exquisite and doesn’t believe he has ulterior motives despite Marlott’s warnings. However, Esther insists she is not part of Dipple’s collection, vowing to be no man’s property despite her loneliness.

 

Lily Lesser as (Wolf Hall) Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s mathematician daughter, also dislikes Dipple’s obsession with “toys.” She’s interested in automatons for the future and power for women, debating Dipple about whether a man building machines means he has power over God. Men’s power pollutes what it touches, demanding obedience and stifling genius – leading to slavery and humans as the automaton. Although at times the character seems too modern, her progressive ideals aren’t wrong, and it would have been intriguing to see more of her. Corpse bearer Francis Magee (Game of Thrones) knows Marlott is too shrewd for this job, but then again so is he. Spence is a former priest who criticized the Dean for his greed, and now he fears he is in danger. Nonetheless, he does his gruesome job and stands by his convictions, returning to his Bible even to his own detriment. Unfortunately, Kerrie Hayes (Lilies) as Dipple’s orphan maid Queenie is also scared of her employer, his contraptions, and the locked doors deep inside his manor. She and Nightingale grew up in the foundling home together, and she clearly has a crush on him, telling him not to be consumed by blaming Marlott. Queenie wants to help Joe’s investigation, but her curiosity gets the better of her. She knows the police won’t believe what she’s seen, but eventually, Queenie finds tell tale tokens as proof for the police. Locating Ed Stoppard’s rumored to be dead Lord Hervey, however, isn’t so easy. He’s as in pursuit of his creation as Marlott is, but is he truly connected to the current crimes or is Marlott’s wishful seeking of justice involving the not so good doctor? Hervey is said to be here or there, off in the carriage, or just missed him – pinning his gruesome actions on others as it suits his plans. He’s happy to offer the choice of transformation to those who want it, developing a sick delight in what he does. For Hervey, there is no such thing as God’s will, only indifferent science. Sir Robert Peele, however, wants to build new closed burials and give the poor the right to a Christian interment, but Tom Ward’s Home Secretary has to move fast on his reforms before losing the ailing George IV’s favor. Peele seeks cleaner cities where nearby decomposition isn’t going back into the water and objects to the circumvention of his authority, for Guy Henry’s (Rogue One) Dean of Westminster lords over everyone with his stranglehold on the police as well as the church. He squashes murder investigations, pockets burial fees, and uses Martin McCann (The Pacific) as parish coroner Renquist to do away with the bodies privately. For his dirty deeds, Renquist rightfully fears he’s going to be the fall guy, just another of many corrupt officials on The Frankenstein Chronicles.

 

Fallen leaves and overcast skies create a perpetual autumn feeling for The Frankenstein Chronicles while barren coasts invoke a bleak limbo. Storms, mud, moors, and fog contrast the carriages, top hats, walking sticks, and frock coats. Careful editing, silence, and natural sounds parallel the horror realizations amid dank cells, chains, spooky lanterns, and autopsies. There are fancy stone manors and slum streets, but the graveyards and churches are somewhere in between – grand, old, but empty cloisters despite the cross’s symbolic shelter and arched windows providing rare light. Wax seals, lockets, quills, waist coats, and cravats birth mechanical innovations, clockworks, masks, and uncanny valley eyes, layering the creepy science what ifs alongside the innocent flowers, lace, and painstaking embroidery attention to detail. Fair fiddles and carnival acts provide morbid bemusement, yet our star is often alone in the center of the camera frame or on the outside looking in at the action through doorways or arches. Then again, golden sconces and grand libraries can’t compare to decomposing bodies as the gasps and covering mouths provide shock and stench for the audience. Sometimes the blue and night time drab are too dark, however, firelight adds a realistic touch so often missing from overly saturated shows. Oil lamps and disturbing harpsichord music accent syringes, hissing gears, leeches in jars, elixirs, tubes, catalysts, and beakers. The candlelit laboratory almost has an enchanting glow, but who knew blocks of ice could be so..well…chilling? Oddly, neither director Benjamin Ross nor writer Barry Langford are involved in Season Two – all new writers join director Alex Gabassi (The ABC Murders). With previouslies and credits, these episodes are also slightly shorter at forty-five minutes, however it is more annoying that Netflix wants to skip both with seconds to spare. The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two doesn’t use Mary Shelley as a character or the William Blake interconnected themes from the First Season, either. Fortunately, the personal morals, monsters dilemmas, and new mad science elements expand the drama and performances. Although this year ends well, it’s a pity there is no word on a Third Season for The Frankenstein Chronicles. There’s still time and the series deserves more. In reviewing, I must multi-task, pause, and take notes. The Frankenstein Chronicles, however, is a can’t look away parable that’s easy to marathon and superbly blends period piece aesthetics, mystery, and horror.

For more Frankenstein, visit:

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 1

Frankenstein: The True Story

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Alone

 

PlotlineA recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.

Who would like itFans of cat and mouse, wilderness survival, suspense, serial killers, brutal fight scenes, and people who love to scream at people in horror movies

High PointsThe camera work! some of the way certain scenes are shot makes the suspense of the moment even more stressful

Complaints I don’t have any

OverallI super loved this movie

Stars: 5 Full Stars!

Where I watched itStreamer link from the producer  

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

THE BIGFOOT FILES / Chapter Twenty-Two: On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Search

The second half of Seth Breedlove’s On the Trail of Bigfoot documentary, The Search, is a solid follow-up to The Legend. Where The Legend mired itself in Bigfoot’s familiar history, The Search transports us to the present as Breedlove explores hot spots in the forests of Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Ohio on his personal quest to justify his own belief in Bigfoot.

Both documentaries are available on Amazon Prime. You may read my review of The Legend HERE.

Like The Legend, The Search is heavy on interviews, but Breedlove includes some compelling audio recordings while effectively spotlighting diehard Bigfoot researchers.

The documentary begins on Chestnut Ridge outside Collinsville, Pennsylvania, where Breedlove spends a few hours learning about the experience of one local investigator. After introducing a few of the talking heads with their take on the Bigfoot legend, the film shifts to the UFO and paranormal connections to Sasquatch. Author Stan Gordon posits an interdimensional theory with Bigfoot traveling through portals.

Thankfully, The Search spends the majority of its 84-minute runtime on Area X, a heavily forested area in the Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma. Area X is also base camp for the North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC), formerly the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy. The goal of its members is to basically kill a Bigfoot, present the body for scientists to categorize as a legitimate species, and thus preserve the cryptid’s habitat.

The Area X segment of the documentary was the highlight for me. Breedlove visited NAWAC in June 2018, interviewing key members and joining an expedition there. NAWAC shared audio recordings of rock throwing, vocalizations, and wood knocks. NAWAC’s Brian Brown reported tracking an animal for miles using an electronic tag. Daryl Colyer provided the best interview, recalling July 3, 2011, when he reported shooting a Bigfoot. The Sasquatch escaped, but a photograph showed bloodstains on rocks near a creek.

The final third of The Search moved to southern Ohio near the Kentucky border in Adams County. Breedlove interviews founders of the Ohio Night Stalkers who shared vocalization recordings.

Ultimately, the documentary doesn’t prove anything about Sasquatch. However, it shows the passion of dedicated Bigfoot researchers is as intense as ever. I think Breedlove needed to see and feel that passion for himself, hoping it would reignite the embers of his dwindling belief in Bigfoot. In the end, On the Trail of Bigfoot isn’t Breedlove’s quest to find Sasquatch. It’s a quest to rediscover his own passion for the frustratingly complex subject of Bigfoot.

NEXT UP: Chapter Twenty-Three: “The Mystery of Bigfoot.” I review the 2013 episode of America’s Book of Secrets.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Murder Manual

Plotline: Eight creepy tiny tales of terror!

Who would like it: Fans of short films, collections and anthologies 

High Points: It is a really strong anthology. 

Complaints: I have 2 and they aren’t really complaints. The 1st, tho the title suggest that this is going to be a manual on murder not all of the segments revolve around a killing. The 2nd is most of the marketing for this anthology is focused on the cameo of Emilia Clarke but this anthology is so strong that the marketing could have encompassed the film in its entirety and not just her micro short cameo

Overall: Love it! 

Stars: 4 stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Scary Movies and Scary Dreams!

Scary Movies and Scary Dreams! By Kristin Battestella

These, sleepers, mind benders, and franchise twists provide plenty of dreams and distorted realities. Unfortunately, some are scary good and others are scary bad.

Insidious: The Last Key – After the thin, uneven, seemingly nowhere left to go Chapter 3I’m surprised there’s room for this 2018 sequel aka Chapter 4. There’s headache inducing volume issues once again with soft voices versus incredibly loud excuses to make you jump if the scares don’t. Fortunately, penitentiary gates, latches, and skeleton keys disturb the nearby 1950s families. Lights flicker during every execution, and young Elise insists ghosts are in the bunk bend and playing with their toys. Dad, however, gets out the switch for talking nonsense and locks her in the basement bomb shelter where child voices taunt her to open a special red door – leading to evil claw hands with keys for nails, ghostly possessions, and hanging consequences. Grown up Elise Lin Shaye dreams about the past as her Spectral Sightings team moves in with their semi-working technology and a tricked out ghost hunting van. When the latest call for paranormal help is her old address, she’s initially reluctant to return to the house she fled with scars on her back. Though some of the emotion seems rushed or superficial – actual ghosts and ghosts of the past metaphors, we get it– the mix of sardonic, nerdy banter, and friendship ground the trauma, lingering cobwebs, and bibles. Night vision and point of view cameras provide shadows that some see and others don’t while microphones and phantom whistles create one yes, two no communications that are more chilling than unnecessary references to the prior film. False walls and hidden keyholes reveal chains, crawling entities, and creaking demons approaching the paralyzed in fear. Awkward confrontations with brothers left behind and meeting grown nieces create personal touches amid the metaphysical and psychological horrors as the family is lured back to the maze like levels of the house. Tunnels, old suitcases, and skulls address both the personal demons and the underlying sinister as spirits need to be freed from the dark. Metronomes lead to eerie fog, lanterns, underworld jail cells, and risky confrontations in The Further. Detours with real world violence, loud action, guns, and police, however, are time wasting filler when the ghosts still have to be faced. After the fine demon reveal strengthening our family connections, everything degrades into typical whooshes, television rattling roars, and a deus ex machina that’s the same deus ex machina from Chapter 3 complete with winks to the First Insidious for good measure. Although there are problems when the plot strays from the tale it’s supposed to be telling, this was more entertaining than the ultimately unnecessary third movie.

You Make the Call

All Light Will End – Thunder, rustic cabins, and a scared little girl in white saying there’s a monster in her closet open this 2018 scary before folk songs, creaking doors, and hiding under the sheets with a flashlight to keep the growls at bay. However, rather than building on these chills, the story restarts twenty years later with a fat redneck cop chastising a rookie black cop as they answer a call about a severed forearm. We’re told the little girl is the sheriff’s daughter before restarting again with her big city rise and shine complete with taking pills while looking in the bathroom mirror, edgy ballads, and posters for her titular bestselling debut. Multiple driving montages, radio chatter, cliché talk show interviews, and therapy lose more momentum – arbitrarily going through the motions while giving everything away in the first fifteen minutes. Her medication can cause disassociation or a fugue state mixing dreams with reality, and flashes of previous conversations, nightmares, and suicides provide guilt, blame, and inner demons. Alarms, flashing lights, green hues, and eerie tunnels accent the hospital nightmares, and the best scary moments allow the potential frights behind each door to play out with darkness and screams. Unfortunately, these quality night terror vignettes delay our writer’s six-hour drive home to face her fears, and it takes more than half the movie for any forward action to happen. We’re at the wrong point in the story, and viewers who haven’t tuned out will wonder why we’re watching now when all the story seems to have happened then. Bungling cops jar against the severed limbs, creepy gas stations, suspected abuse, and campfire tales, but the grieving family moments and women mulling over telling secrets or keeping them and losing your sanity are better than the try-hard pals with beer. The blurring of dreams versus reality are intercut well when we finally do get to the cabin, mirroring the mental disassociation with similar nighttime lighting, mind-bending jumps, distorted voices, blindfolds, and bloody trails. People are missing, searchers are separated, and woods and whispers blend together. Prior arguments between mother and daughter are revisited with negative portrayals, sacrifices about what it takes to be a writer, and doubts about who wrote what escalating to blackmail and crazed, violent reactions. Although there are some choice twists as well as a reason for the disjointed, non-linear telling, the structural flaws make it tough to enjoy this story. Key points are both obvious thanks to that front-loaded information and muddled with unanswered plot holes and abrupt resolutions. The possibilities devolve into hammy actions, unnecessary running at the screen with open mouth screams, and strolling through the woods in bloody lingerie. With four minutes of end credits, this really is an eighty minute movie that should have traded the first half hour for a half hour to resolve everything properly.

 Skip It!

Mara – Sleep paralysis statistics and fears of demonic possession open this 2018 thriller starring Olga Kurylenko (Centurion) amid children’s bedroom terrors and behind closed door screams. Ticking clocks and blue lighting set off the creepy drawings, mental evaluations, and witnesses recounting their sleep demon experience – weighed down on the mattress and unable to breathe. Unfortunately, there are too many of those Horror Movie Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing contrivances interfering with what should be an interesting story. Character sympathies and our strong woman psychologist in a tough policeman’s world jar against the forced scary elements, making the titular ominous as laughable as the overly dramatic slow motion, arias, and ripped teddy bear on the floor. At times this wants to be a standard procedural using jump drives, CCTV, crime scene notes, and tablet technology, but then our gal goes off to a mysterious address without notifying police and listens to sleep-deprived crackpot theories to learn about the sleep demon rather than just, you know, Googling it. The detective is right to remind her she’s out of bounds, for this psychologist is easily bothered by what seems like a routine case. After hearing sufferers admit this sleep demon sounds like crazy talk, we’re not surprised when the trapped sleep and stilted breathing happens to her – there’s never any doubt this is a monster, not delusion or delirium thanks to early reveals and unnecessarily spooky compromising any innate suspense. From a divorcing couple and their child to prayer freaks, disturbed veterans, and our psychologist with a crazy mom past, everyone who sees Mara has other issues yet nobody wonders what’s really causing their sleepless nights. Hypnotic ceiling fans, fiery deaths, and gasping paralysis build scares, but bemusing bloodshot eye markings and demon mythology deflate the terror. Mara doesn’t kill you right away but comes in four assault stages that can’t happen if you only sleep in twenty-minute shifts. Predictable encounters and dream jump shocks tread tires while our agitated sleepless victims are more annoying than believable. With today’s technology, no one sets up a camera for proof? The notion to involve more science and sleep monitoring comes too late, and the doctors blame The X-Files and pop culture for scaring people anyway. Weak paranoia and guilt metaphors provide no payoff to the psychologist’s suicidal schizophrenic mother backstory, but Olga’s look becomes increasingly frazzled – physically changing her appearance rather than addressing her turmoil. Car accidents and fighting to stay awake chases in the finale could have been the entire strung out focus, but time is wasted on the demon doing both in your face screams and taking its sweet, creaking time to inch toward the victim. When we finally get to the desperate cutting off of the eyelids, it’s just gore and a thin idea run out of steam. Although this could have been much better and seems content to be repetitive and Elm Street derivative, it can be a mildly entertaining late-night watch or bemusing drinking game if you aren’t looking for something really scary or expect any real sense of dread.

 Read up on More Scaries:

Family Haunts and Fears

Haunting Ladies

Dark Shadows Video Review

Comic Review: The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm
☆☆☆☆

As one of H.P. Lovecraft’s inspirations, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood is a classic tale that isn’t known by many. Algernon may be more famously remembered as the writer who influenced writers rather than for his own work. The man himself was an interesting person I would have liked to been friends with. A member of The Ghost Club and a mystic develing into occultism, Rosicrucianism, and Buddhism, he also loved the outdoors.

His story, The Willows, mixes his two loves. The outdoors and creepy shit. He does what rarely is done well. He takes on the realism of camping and being amongst the trees, making you feel you are there with him and adds the fear we all have about the woods. What is the shadow in the woods? What is that sound? Is it simply nature or is there something supernatural watching from a wooded perch?

In The Willows, two friends on a canoe trip down the River Danube encounter ominous masses of menacing willows, which “moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible.”

In this comic edition of The Willows, the story is told through pictures and presents a visual representation of the willow monsters that will haunt your dreams. Put together by Nathan Carson and Sam Ford, this edition is either a must-have collectible for Willows fans or an introduction for those who have not read the original story. 

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I am very picky on artwork. Because of the time period and the nature aspect, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the art. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Sam’s work and will look for his other endeavors in the future. There is a slight steampunk look to some of the work, but at the same time, I feel he recalls the time period well. Although I am not sold on all of his people depictions because sometimes the humans don’t look the same in one frame versus the other, his creature and animal renderings are phenomenal. I especially enjoyed the full page art pieces he did such as the undine army and the branches being an optical illusion. The facial expressions on the main character are the best I’ve seen. His demon and supernatural cells are the stuff of nightmares. I was supremely happy with the comic in general.

I’d say the story representation was done well. I feel from reading the original story that there were portions that dragged and I wondered where they were going. Being cut with Nathan’s modern mind helped move the story along at a great pace and contributed to allowing Sam the freedom to create the demons he needed to in the art.

Overall, I’d say this is going in the win column for comic adaptations of classic horror works. They kept the original story and built an even better representation of it. I’m giving this comic a strong 4 stars. ☆☆☆☆ 

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

THE BIGFOOT FILES : Chapter Twenty-One / On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Legend

Fresh from watching the outstanding 2020 documentary Track: Search for Australia’s Bigfoot, I was thrilled to see another recently released documentary titled On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Legend appear in my Amazon Prime “Movies we think you’ll like” list.

Unlike Track, On the Trail of Bigfoot is more a brief history lesson than a search for the mythic creature. I had hoped the 2019 documentary would reveal more evidence and footage of the elusive cryptid. However, On the Trail of Bigfoot simply details the beginning groundwork of a filmmaker’s search for Sasquatch. The documentary focuses heavily on interviews with researchers who share their takes on some of the benchmark Sasquatch stories of the past. The film works for a Bigfoot novice but doesn’t provide much captivating content for experienced enthusiasts.

Director Seth Breedlove is passionate about the unexplained. The Ohio filmmaker has helmed a dozen documentaries about cryptid sightings and unexplained events in small communities largely forgotten by the media. His films have covered subjects ranging from the Minerva Monster to The Bray Road Beast.

On the Trail of Bigfoot is an introduction – Bigfoot 101, if you will – with Breedlove setting the table for a future expedition. Most of the interviews rehash stories already well known to Bigfoot researchers like the Ape Canyon incident and Albert Ostman encounter of the 1920s, and the Jerry Crew footprint discovery in the 1950s.

Breedlove talks to several credible researchers like Loren Coleman of the International Cryptozoology Museum, The Olympic Project’s Derek Randles, documentary filmmaker Peter von Puttkamer, and author Stan Gordon. Subjects range from the Four Horsemen of Bigfoot hunting to the regional behavioral differences among Sasquatch. While the interviews are interesting, they lack the suspense that a dramatic new revelation provides.

With his journalism experience, Breedlove is an effective interviewer. I admire his passion for the subject matter and for pointing his camera at small-town legends. However, without new and compelling footage of Sasquatch, On the Trail of Bigfoot only offers informed enthusiasts the hope suggested in the final frame of the documentary, which reads: “To Be Continued.”

NEXT UP: Chapter Twenty-Two: On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Search. I review the 2019 documentary directed by Seth Breedlove.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Hall

Plotline: When a debilitating sickness spreads across a long hotel hallway, a few scattered victims fight for survival, and try to escape from the dark narrow stretch of isolated carnage.

Who would like it: Zombie fans, gore hounds, virus and apocalyptic movies, and those who love sci fi and conspiracy films.  

High Points

Complaints: One of the death scenes made no sense and was completely unnecessary  

Overall: I like it

Stars: 3 1/2 

Where I watched it: Screener

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: The Cabin Sessions by Isobel Blackthorn

Review by: Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: Sex, Violence, Incest, Domestic Abuse, Homophobia, Misogyny

Small town secrets, murders, and mysteries that span decades, and a bar in the woods that reeks of rotting flesh… welcome to The Cabin Sessions.

The Cabin Sessions is a dark psychological thriller by Isobel Blackthorn.

On a stormy Christmas Eve, the musicians of the town of Burton gather at The Cabin, a local bar, and take turns sharing their music. But tensions simmer beneath the surface. As the night continues and the storm roils overhead, dark secrets are revealed and old grudges assert themselves.

The Cabin Sessions doesn’t have a traditional plot. The titular Cabin Session is itself largely unimportant, more of a chance for the characters to muse about their own lives and the other townspeople. The real meat of the story is largely told through a series of flashbacks.

Blackthorn balances the major reveals of the story well, keeping dark secrets hidden until the appropriate moment. The Cabin Sessions is a slow burn story with an explosive ending. Blackthorn saved all the action until the very end.

The Cabin Sessions is foremost, a character study. Blackthorn dives into the minds of three Burton residents to tell the twisted story of murder and betrayal.

Adam is an outsider in the town of Burton. A recent transplant from the city, a gay man, and a non-believer, Adam earns the distrust of most residents. Unfamiliar with generations of scandal and gossip, he serves as the perfect vehicle to learn about the town’s shadowed history. Adam comes with his own dark past and a large part of the tension in Cabin Sessions is driven by his anxiety over the return of his abusive ex-boyfriend, Juan. The inevitable violence Juan threatens lingers over the story like the storm in Burton, filling the novel with creeping dread. Blackthorn masterfully writes inside the mind of a survivor of abuse and Adam’s fears are grounded in reality.

Philip is a Burton native, born in the town, raised in the repressive Kinsfolk religion/cult. He is a town pariah turned golden-boy. As a character, he is infuriating. A narcissistic, selfish, misogynistic, man-child. In his own mind, he can do no wrong. Nothing is ever his fault. His actions should have no consequences, and actually, should have consequences for other people. He resents all the other townsfolk, including his own family. He blames them for daring to think that he has done something, even when it was something he actually did. He is frighteningly incapable of introspection. That doesn’t make him unrealistic, however. Everyone has met someone like Philip Stone. It’s actually impressive that Blackthorn managed to get inside the mind of someone so vile without making herself sick. More impressive is the slow burn reveal of just how bad Philip really is.

Eva, Philip’s sister, is odd. Everyone in the town agrees though they don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her. Eva’s obsession with her brother borders on the deranged. Her diary accounts slowly reveal the secrets of the family’s past, including some truly shocking stories. But Eva’s remembrances contradict Philip’s, causing the reader to question which of them is wrong. Blackthorn’s use of the unreliable narrator really stands out and ratchets up the tension of the story as we wait for the reveal.

With a storm raging outside, the occupants are forced into close proximity. The heavy incense that fails to mask the stench of something rotting in the chimney is almost palpable from Blackthorn’s description. The close quarters of The Cabin add a claustrophobic element to the story and serve to heighten the tension among the characters.

The Cabin Sessions is a good fit for readers who like a literary element to their horror stories. If you are looking for excessive gore or jump scares, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you like a slow burn, atmospheric book with surprising twists, pick up a copy of The Cabin Sessions.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Death Becomes Her

Deliciously Dark Death Becomes Her gets Better with Age

by Kristin Battestella

Mad?”

Hel!”

Writer Helen Sharp’s (Goldie Hawn) plastic surgeon fiance Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis) thinks Helen’s childhood friend Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) is an amazing starlet. Madeline has stolen Helen’s beaus previously and does so again, but fourteen years later, Helen achieves her revenge by looking stunning and wooing Ernest into her killer plans. Madeline will do whatever she can to compete – including visiting the mysterious Lisle von Rhoman (Isabella Rosselini) for a youthful elixir. Unfortunately, the costly potion leads to bodily disasters if you don’t take care of your beauty, and unlike these desperate ladies trying to stay forever young, the 1992 dark comedy Death Becomes Her only gets better with age.

Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and writers Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds) open the surprisingly PG-13 Death Becomes Her with 1978 not so well received ritzy as Playbills are tossed aside and stage glory turns sour thanks to show within in a show awkward performances, bad choreography, caricatures on youth, and phony songs about you. Flirtatious winks, polite shade, through the teeth comebacks, and backhanded compliments are played straight as your frienemy steals your man, and Death Becomes Her wastes no time with backstabbing wedding bells and revenge decades in the planning leading to book party invitations and who’s looking swell versus who’s looking worse for the wear changes. The man looming above the frame is reflected in the mirror behind the woman – reverse revealing the personal disconnect as each says things they don’t mean alongside more symbolism and aggressive gestures. Hellish characters and murderous plans are both deliberate and measured yet flippant and off the cuff, as our plastic surgeon is dismissed as a ghoul for not healing but indulging vanity even in death. More quirky visuals layer the Hollywood commentary – what’s with that guy upside on the wheel at the spa? – and reflective camera shots create viewer double take. What if we did look twice and really paid attention beyond face value then what would we see? Death Becomes Her winks at the secret opportunities available to the elite behind closed doors amid insular they know that we know that they know that we know flattery. Confidence only comes with beauty, and the camera’s distorted angles and askew perceptions reiterate this frame of mind as wide shots have the face in the center but the subject at hand in the background. With such in camera staging, one need not resort to fast-paced editing later to compensate and piece together wit or tension because the bags full of makeup, screams overseeing oneself in the mirror without said makeup, and fake tears sprayed in the eyes while practicing crocodile speeches – in the mirror framed by defaced pictures of her obsession – speak for themselves. One woman equals sex while another demeans flaccid, and cuckold phrases reiterate the servile men and obedient dogs as demented one liners, frantic questions, and disturbing calm lead to top of the stairs teetering and the not so dead rising behind one’s back. Formaldehyde is bought in bulk on top of jokes on doing something “funny” with a dead wife and “It’s alive” homages. Eternal youth potions await in a scary, humbling castle where newcomers tiptoe so their heels don’t echo on the floor before sampling this hush-hush, ageless elixir to prove its price. Snake charmers admit the forever young will look suspicious if they don’t disappear, and Death Becomes Her is likewise self-aware of how lacking in self-awareness its desperate characters are when not heeding knives or warnings to preserve the facade. Women who for decades purposely inflict pain without actually harming each other let all the violence out and apologize – tag teaming the man they were fighting over because they need him to maintain their seemingly miraculous vitality forever. Twisted dream sequences, wide lenses, and zooms accentuate the preposterously clever scheme of tranquilizers on the wine glass and finishing dinner before planting the body in a car going off Mulholland Drive as quips about divorce in California, never seeing a neighbor in Los Angeles, and those with no talent for poverty orchestrating murder escalate the satire with handy hardware, bloody bodies in the lily pond, and a hole in the stomach big enough to right see through you.

Everything has to be taut and perfect for Madeline Ashton, and only Meryl Streep (She-Devil) can play a bad actress obsessed with wrinkles without winking and scene chewing for the camera. Madeline strikes the right pose, plumps the bosom, and remains pampered even if she hasn’t worked in some time and is no longer the breadwinner. In order to hide her impoverished past, she must show up Helen at all times and mere makeup won’t do. Despite her fame and wealth, Madeline’s ugliness shows in her mistreatment of the maid or any pretty supple ingenue. When rejected by her younger lover for not considering how he feels, she blames him for making her feel cheap. Even if the spa refuses to do a traumatic plasma treatment, Madeline demands the procedure money is no object because she fears younger women must be laughing at her. She’s shocked at Helen’s transformation and makes excuses about feeling terrible at having happiness at Helen’s expense, but Madeline doesn’t feel that terrible and she’s not really happy. Fortunately, her shady zingers return with her beauty, but Madeline says what she shouldn’t, leading to scary body bags and uncomfortable realizations – although she enjoys having no pulse because nobody can play dead better than she can. Goldie Hawn’s (Overboard) Helen is initially a shy and quiet writer compared to her old school rival Madeline, dowdy and twisting her handkerchief rather than expressing her anger. She warns Ernest that Madeline only wants him because she has him. Madeline has stolen men from Helen before and she wants Ernest to pass her Madeline Ashton test, but when he does not, Helen becomes a gluttonous cat lady obsessed with rewinding Madeline’s onscreen strangulation. Upon eviction, she ruins her therapy group by talking about Madeline before overcoming her outlook by vowing revenge and looking dynamite while doing it. Literary success follows, and Helen lies to Madeline’s face about never blaming her, kissing her cheek as she pits Madeline and Ernest against each other. Now a vivacious vixen, Helen claims sisterhood while plotting with her man – embodying the shade, deception, and fierce competition of the woman scorned even if she doesn’t really want Ernest anymore. She just wants to take him from Madeline and use him for her fatal revenge, and both ladies willingly become a Hollywood type of vampire, consuming the essence of a man for their own youthful survival. What does their undead beauty contest get them? Each other, stuck forever in an “I paint your ass, you paint mine” begrudging.

Ernest Menville was once a famous plastic surgeon, but now Bruce Willis’ (Color of Night) doctor is a postmortem fixer for the Hollywood dead between breakfast bloody marys. Life with Madeline hasn’t worked out, and she’s reviled by his bottom feeder, drinking himself to death existence. When complimented for his mortuary work, Ernest admits the secret weapon for coloring dead skin is spray paint, but he knows it isn’t real work and would sell his soul to really operate again. He argues with Madeline about who ruined whom and won’t take jokes about his clients being stiffer. Though unhappy, wishing to divorce, and easily swept up when Helen comes on to him with sexy words, Ernest is reluctant to go along with her plans, for he takes the change in Madeline’s temperature, pulse, and hair – because that’s what men notice – as a miracle. Ernest gains confidence despite his fear over what he has done, wanting to make Madeline his masterpiece, painting her and carefully mixing the turpentine. He won’t be rushed when her eyes must have artistic balance! Ernest will fix them and then go, but when the ladies need touch-ups, his sudden backbone becomes a problem. Death Becomes Her’s few daylight scenes are about Ernest realizing what took him so long to leave. He was willing to keep his marital promise in spite of the suffering and humiliation, but his obligations are fulfilled in her death do us part. The camera at the not all that it seems spa has to be switched off before Isabella Rosellini’s (Merlin) Lisle von Rhoman can be mentioned, but the million dollar price tag for her mysterious potion is relative to such elite clientele. Her stunning beauty and barely there clothes make it easy to soft sell her elixir – Lisle is sweet when charming a guest, telling them to follow spring and summer but avoid autumn and winters however she’s sassy when ordering her Tom, Dick, and Harry henchmen and intimating with her deceptions. She knows why her clients come to see her, for they are scared of themselves, their bodies, the lengths they go to in maintaining their secrets, and their inevitable failure. Life is cruel, taking away vitality only to replace it with decay, so we want to believe her sweet talking promise to defy natural and endorse the check despite her dominance. The camera heightens Lisle’s look fair and feei  foul with carefully orchestrated poses and frames. She’s centered perfectly in each shot with daggers, Dobermans, and amulets. Lisle crosses her legs in her throne chair and says “thank you” when someone exclaims about God, but her seductive wraps and high collared, witchy robes suggest an underlying evil. After imploring our plastic surgeon to now take the youth and beauty he gave to others for himself, Lisle’s full menace is revealed when he questions her on the nightmarish consequences of immortality. Of course, there’s a wink to Rosellini’s casting because she looks so much like her mother, and bemusing not so dead cameos include James Dean, Jim Morrison, Elvis, and Marilyn alongside appearances by Mrs. Zemeckis Mary Ellen Trainor (Tales from the Crypt) and poor doctor with a heart condition Sydney Pollock (Three Days of the Condor).

The naughty but sinister, frenetic strings of Alan Silvestri’s (Predator) theme set the mood for Death Becomes Her amid a dash of jazz, disco beats, and campy cues. Boas and colorful stage backdrops in the opening sequence establish an over the top, garish, tacky and lamé atmosphere before static on the old television, retro patterns, and poor clutter contrast the massive Beverly Hill mansion with gated entries, a grand staircase, hefty doors, and heaps of marble. The made to look ugly, old, and desperate makeup and bodily transformations are well done amid tears and soggy rain making a woman look worse before bemusing good skin versus bad skin comparisons and boob lifts. That pretty left hand with the giant rock ring is always prominently displayed! Subtle nudity is also reflected through windows and doors as supple butt shots provide curves to the sagging and wrinkles. The square nineties blazers and low buttons add masculine angles for the women, however low cut cleavage, deep blouses, and lace invoke feminine symbolism along with thigh-high slits, Egyptian life giving motifs, and our glowing pink potion. Death Becomes Her abounds with mirrors everywhere – frames within frames via television screens, snapshots, and gold portraits pepper every scene. Clever reflections, shadows, and silhouettes do double duty while red stands for passion, black for suspicion, and white for innocence as dramatic overhead drops, balcony dangles, thunder, and shotgun blasts apply terror in the killing scenes. Neck snaps, stairway rolls, holes in the gut, and backwards results are as disturbing as the decision to kill. Sure, some of the bumbling bodies and squashed heads may look poor now, but that also keeps them funny, and there are more intriguing or random visual gags to catch our eye – the doctor throwing away his stethoscope when he can’t get a heartbeat, the yuppie tennis couple with the bruised elbows, those weird ass gliding nuns. The pink pastels and green palm trees in the eighties upscale buildings are perfectly gaudy now, but the blue lighting, black marble, and arrows pointing to the morgue mirror how the characters are inevitably walking towards death. Michelangelo motifs and pools of water could be symbolic life renewals as one tries to escape the locked doors, gilded elevators, grand arches, maze like spires, and those ever present mirrors but Death Becomes Her’s beauty goes from svelte to garish with vampire pale, white out eyes, pasty skin, and gross peeling.

One may love or hate Death Becomes Her but there is no in between and it takes multiple viewings to study the dual nuances, comedic layers, and dark subtleties. Questions on immortality – or at least looking immortal – deepen the commentary on beauty and why women compete to look so enchanting even if it kills them. Today’s dark comedies often feel crass or too disturbing, but the great cast keeps Death Becomes Her mature with a tongue in cheek that doesn’t have to berate the obvious. While not in your face horror, the choice macabre moments and increasingly bleak palette illume our dread and fear of old age. We can laugh at the sardonic winks even as Death Becomes Her calls out Hollywood then and hello look at us on the ‘gram now, remaining delicious because its satire is unfortunately more applicable than ever.

Do you remember where you parked the car?”

For more Horror Comedies, revisit:

The Addams Family Season 1

The Munsters Season 1

Bell, Book, and Candle

THE BIGFOOT FILES/ Chapter Twenty: Track: Search for Australia’s Bigfoot

Track: Search for Australia’s Bigfoot is one of the best Sasquatch documentaries I have ever seen. Released by Moonlark Media in 2020, Track follows producer/director Attila Kaldy on an expedition to find evidence of the Yowie, Australia’s version of Bigfoot. Kaldy takes viewers into an uncharted region of Australia’s vast Blue Mountains to investigate a dense forest known for unidentified howls and guttural screams.

Track delivered for me what is lacking in the glut of cryptid documentaries: compelling footage that I have never seen or heard before. It is available on Amazon Prime Video.

The director Kaldy shares his own encounters with the Yowie along with other researchers and investigators. Their testimonies are brief and to the point and do not halt the momentum of the production.

Track quickly introduces Yowie Dan who plays chilling audio called the Marramarra howls. Then, he shares a clip of video that briefly shows a tall, shadowy figure moving behind a rock ledge. Yowie Dan claims he accidentally caught the image as he set his video camera down, only seeing it later when he reviewed the footage. Whether real or not, it is compelling.

Author and university lecturer Tony Jinks was not impressed by the video clip initially. When he visited the site with Yowie Dan, his mind changed. After comparing the image to the actual location, they estimated the figure in the footage had to be at least 10 feet tall.

Track also follows Rob Gray and Rob Venables of the paranormal and cryptid research group Truth Seekers of Oz on a nighttime expedition. Their video evokes an eerie Sasquatch version of The Blair Witch Project as the men see signs, hear sounds, and smell odors attributed to the Yowie. The ominous atmosphere serves to increase their paranoia that “something” is tracking them.

Track interviews Mathew Crowther, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, who injects a bit of legitimate skepticism into the documentary. Other interviews with cryptozoologists Gary Opit and Neil Frost offer interesting perspectives on the Yowie, including the possibility of a marsupial cryptid with a pouch like a kangaroo.

The only aspect of the documentary I failed to understand is why field investigators were not shown meticulously searching for hair and scat evidence, especially when they appeared to enter a full-blown Yowie nest area.

Overall, Track is how I wish all Sasquatch documentaries were made. It clocks in at an efficient 57 minutes and promptly introduces its most compelling footage. I must mention the haunting and immersive musical score by Daljit Kundi. It elevated the documentary to another level and made me feel like I was watching an episode of The X-Files (which is always good).

I think Track earns its place as a must-see documentary for Sasquatch enthusiasts.

NEXT UP: Chapter Twenty-One: On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Search. I review the 2019 documentary directed by Seth Breedlove.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Giants on the Horizon

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Giant Monsters on the Horizon 

We’ve made it through August, Horror Addicts, and I hope this post does not find you in pieces. I’m preparing to transition into a new teaching job while supporting a high schooler and a new college student through uncertain educational times. It’s wild out there, so take a minute to sink into the slick sounds of this month’s new-to-me artist. 

Giant Monsters on the Horizon, a duo out of St. Louis,  recently released a new album of dark-wave deliciousness, Live from Night City. The album was written during a dark time for the band and elements of despair can be experienced in their sound for sure. There’s an emptiness in tracks like “Oxygen,” and “Android Hellscape” that clearly resonates with all of us still sheltering in place. Through the synthesizers and soothing low-key vocals, you can find a welcome place to zone out. Night City, the setting of this collection of songs, is a stark and drastic place, but GMOTH does an admirable job of filling that space with energizing songs that make you recall why we need and crave music in our lives. 

“Tetra Chroma” and “Del Ctrl & Esc” are standout tracks that will engage your attention and have you up and dancing. The band has a Xymox feel with a side of Camouflage and the moody feel of current alternative bands like PVRIS. I’ll definitely be following them on Spotify for more. It was nice to see on their social media a strong activist presence including participation in fundraisers through Bandcamp. Live From Night City is an excellent collection of songs that fans of electronica and dark-wave will definitely dig. I wish them well with this latest release and their future endeavors. 

That’s it for this edition of Merrill’s Musical Musings. Feel free to check out my Rock ‘n’ Romance blog for more about my books and adventures. I also host other author guests talking about their novels in a feature called Music Behind The Story. Stay creepy, Horror Addicts! 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: For We Are Many

Plotline: Horror Anthology produced by from filmmakers from around the world, which explores the subject of Demons, with inspiration from Ancient Mythology, Religion and the Cosmological Horror of H. P. Lovecraft.

Who would like it: Fans of anthologies. 

High Points: The variety of the stories. 

Complaints: Not really so much as a complaint but like with a lot of collections there will be some stories that a person might like over the others. 

Overall: I liked the concept of this anthology

Stars: 3.5

Where I watched it: VOD

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: Belle Vue by C.S. Alleyne

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault and Violence

I’m a big fan of atmospheric horror. And nothing screams atmosphere quite like a haunted asylum. Based on the very real abuses of the British asylum system in the 19th century, Belle Vue explores what happens when the horrors of the past reach into the present.

Belle Vue is a horror novel by C.S. Alleyne, published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Claire thinks that she’d found the deal of a lifetime. Finally, she can own her own place, a flat in the beautifully renovated Belle Vue Mansion. So, what if it is reportedly haunted? No ghost is going to scare her off from her dream home.

But the grisly history of Belle Vue is more than just a ghost story and it certainly hasn’t been left in the past. The gruesome fate of Ellen Grady and her sister Mary in 1869 created ripples that affect the tenants of Belle Vue even now.

Belle Vue tells a twisted tale of madness, murder, Satanists, and sex cults.

Alleyne cleverly weaves the past and present together, telling twin stories while never giving too much away. Parallels between the stories are artful without being predictable. Crucial information is revealed at just the right times. Alleyne is a master of twists, reserving them until they are most unexpected. No character is safe in this story.

Belle Vue stars a cast of characters, rather than having one protagonist. These interactions fuel the intrigue and suspense of the novel. Above all, what Alleyne does well is to create characters that are flawed, but compelling.

Claire’s enthusiasm and lust for life immediately drew me to her. Watching the events of the book unfold (and anticipating what was to come) filled me with dread. The tragedy that surrounds Claire throughout Belle Vue is only made worse with the knowledge of how her circumstances reflect those of the past.

Alex, Claire’s boyfriend, makes for an interesting character study. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and misogynistic, though he does seem to care for Claire. He is far from perfect and, in fact, his flaws are what stand out about him as a character. The tragedy of Belle Vue affects him profoundly. More than any other, he displays the most growth throughout the plot.

Poor, sweet Ellen doesn’t deserve all that happens to her at Belle Vue. Imprisoned there by her sister in the 1860’s, Ellen suffers horribly at the hands of the staff. Her loving and hopeful nature persists and her spirit haunts Belle Vue in a subtle way from then on.

Sinister in the extreme, Mary makes for an unconscionable antagonist. Mary pulls the strings for the events at Belle Vue, from the 1860’s through the present day. Though she considers herself the product of misuse, her selfishness and greed are the real cause of her suffering. Though her cunning elevates her to supernatural heights, it also damns her.

Belle Vue is itself a character in this story. The stately mansion holds centuries worth of secrets and Alleyne enjoys teasing them out throughout the story. From the manor home of hedonistic sadists, to a horrific asylum, to a renovated apartment complex, the Belle Vue has worn many faces, and hidden the dark truth in the tunnels below.

Belle Vue was a delight to read, especially if you enjoy historical horror. Anyone who likes asylum horror should pick this up.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Tales from the Crypt Season 4

Tales from the Crypt Season 4 Continues the Scary Quality

by Kristin Battestella

Summer of 92’s fourteen episode Season Four of Tales from the Crypt once again sources the titular comics alongside Crime Suspense Stories, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror for more choice frights, spooky guests, and cheeky thrills.

Director Tom Hanks cameos along with fellow The ‘burbs alum Henry Gibson and boxer cum grave digger Sugar Ray Leonard in the “None but the Lonely Heart” premiere as Treat Williams (Everwood) endures the old lady lipstick before a little poison and another funeral. Killing rich dames is good business, but he needs one more gal to make his fortune before his past comes back to haunt him. Unfortunately, anyone wise to the fatal gigolo might have his head smashed into the television or tie stuck in the paper shredder. Our Crypt Keeper host, meanwhile, is a ‘boo it yourselfer’ hitting his thumb with the hammer and building a swing set so he can ‘hang around’ for “This’ll Kill Ya” with scientists Dylan McDermott (Olympus Has Fallen) and Sonia Braga (The Rookie). Medicine bottles, insulin injections, long legs, and dead bodies in the trunk don’t mix! These radical experiments aren’t ready for human trials, but love triangles and mixing business with pleasure make for unreliable antidotes, erroneous injections, and steamy bad habits. Zooms, neon flashes, and rapid montages add to the virus paranoia, patient delirium, boils, and oozing skin. Although the initial edgy music and badass language fall flat to start director William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist) “On a Deadman’s Chest,” C.K. does his Elvis impersonation amid the heavy metal arguing and groupies in leather. Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World) is the new bride coming between the band, but freaky snake tattoos lead to a magical artist who says he can solve our musician’s problems. There’s more graphic sex and nudity this half-hour, and the old fashioned needling and talk of putting what’s on the inside on the flesh set off the voodoo-esque parlor as the music tensions spiral out of control with fatal bathtubs and gory skin peels. I dare say, there are also some slightly homoerotic themes, too, with mesmerizing snakes, a woman coming between men, a man unable to escape who he really is, and body dysmorphia horror. Likewise, older actress Mimi Rogers (Ginger Snaps) is being replaced by her younger, willing roommate Kathy Ireland (Alien from L.A.) for the behind the scenes meta of “Beauty Rest” with ‘Ball Buster’ perfume commercials and little creaky push-ups from the Crypt Keeper. The seductive, sassy start turns into pageant rivalries and poisoned cookies as the ladies argue whether sleeping to the top or killing to get ahead is worse – but the unusual contest questions and the secret winnings remind the ladies that it’s really what’s inside that counts. Shady landlord rocker Meatloaf pressures restaurant owner Christopher Reeve (Somewhere in Time) in “What’s Cookin’,” however bus boy Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) has some new barbecue recipes for the bodies hanging in the freezer. Local cop Art LaFleur (House Hunting) also develops a taste for flame broiled flesh at the booming steakhouse, and the superior turnabout is set off with red lighting, sizzling grills, and all the expected puns from our host.

Bad ratings and the threat of cancellation thanks to shock jock Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) leads shrink radio host David Warner (Wallander) to make an on-air visit with frequent caller Zelda Rubenstein (Teen Witch) in “The New Arrival.” His The Art of Ignoring Your Child book, however, doesn’t help the screaming girl thanks to the masks and booby traps in this spooky manor with dark stairs and a dangerous attic. Not to mention the attacker points of view, deadly twists, and ceiling fan mishaps. C. Keep is looking for a home on ‘derange’ marked ‘souled’ in “Maniac at Large,” but meek Blythe Danner (Huff) doesn’t feel safe in her library thanks to trouble causing ruffians and newspaper reports of a serial killer on the loose. Creepy music by Bill Conti (North and South) adds to the unease as late night cataloging and book piles in the basement build paranoia. Suspense editing and strategic lighting escalate the alarms, knives, vandalism, and possible intruders as the headline hype spirals out of control. Producer Joel Silver directs the memorable “Split Personality” as Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) romances twins by pretending he is also a set of twins where one always has to be away on business. Split-screen camera work and intercut conversations accent the double talk, but these possessive ladies are not to be taken advantage of by anyone. Everything has to be fifty-fifty, and despite swanky tunes and casino style, the luck is going to run out on this con thanks to Tales from the Crypt’s unforgettable brand of saucy, graphic, and cheeky. The Crypt Keeper has some therapy on the rack to open “Strung Along” because he’s ‘a little stiff every day,’ but recovering puppeteer Donald O’Connor (There’s No Business Like Show Business) is nostalgic for his old black and white kids show. Heart attacks and sentiment, unfortunately, clash with his younger, bikini clad wife. His creepy clown marionette also seems to have a life of his own, and increasingly dark designs set off the affairs, love letters, and shocking betrayals before the full moon of “Werewolf Concerto.” Chanting music and infrared animal perspectives add to the chases, howls, and hairy attackers as sexy guest Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation) is trapped in a hotel with wolf hunter Timothy Dalton (Penny Dreadful) amid piano compositions, double-crosses, and gunpoint standoffs. The werewolf revelations and race to beat the moonrise are superb, surprises again combining for some of Tales from the Crypt’s best winks, scares, and star power. The wilderness solitude for Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and the late Margot Kidder (Black Christmas) in the “Curiosity Killed” finale only acerbates the marital insults. However, their fellow campers have a special tonic that might curb the catty aging. Excellent interplay and fountain of youth sympathy build to the inevitable topper with night-blooming jasmine, bugs, graves, moonlight madness, disturbing gore, and all the irony to match.

Unfortunately, Tales from the Crypt does briefly sag midseason with the double-dealings, blackmail, and swindling resets of “Seance.” The candles, incantations, and Old World atmosphere of the psychic parlor are just a smokescreen for mid-century hustles and colloquial put-ons with Ben Cross (Dark Shadows) and even Crypt Keeper Investigations doing a Sam Spade spoof with ‘No headstone left unturned.’ The noir aesthetic looks great, but this is another typical crime plot with lawyers, money, and a tacked on supernatural bookend. Our Keeper’s wearing adorable little chaps and a cowboy hat as Tales from the Crypt producer Richard Donner directs “Showdown.” Sunsets, haze, bleak shadows, and dry orange vistas add a surreal, hellish look to the horses and gunslingers. There are quickdraws, snake oil tonics, and ghosts in the saloon, but this non-linear tale is dark and tough to see with a distorted passage of time and too much confusion about what should be an interesting question on who’s dead or alive. The pace both drags over nothing yet maybe it’s also a story worthy of more than a half-hour. Star power is also surprisingly lacking, however, the next episode “King of the Road” has Brad Pitt (The Counselor), hot rods, and disturbing street racing collisions yet also misses the mark. Even the Keeper is too busy doing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Scream’ instead. Both these episodes come from original scripts with loose ties to a Two-Fisted Tales movie adaptation, and the hooking up with the cop’s daughter, blackmail, kidnapping, and spiders in the mailbox are pointless torment. Cool veneer, music montage filler – it’s scarier that there are no English subtitles on the bare bones Season Four DVD set!

Thankfully, the full opening intro once again plays with each Tales from the Crypt episode, and macabre soul that I am, I love studying it for home décor ideas. Word processors, big old retro televisions, vintage cameras, video dating services, and VHS stuck in the VCR add to the mod eighties style, all-white designs, and old lady mauve. Older blue nighttime lighting invokes the cemetery mood, and purple hues or Art Deco black and white tones create flavor with very little. Forties styles, long stem cigarettes, and big hats go far while fire, candles, and thunderstorms provide atmosphere regardless of setting. Bright luxuries contrast the dark dated nineties clubs, but there are still high-waisted jeans and the occasional shoulder pads on the ladies alongside the lingering one giant earring trend and big blowout hairstyles. The language and gore are also a little tame to start the season – perhaps the producers were already thinking of the future syndication reruns beyond HBO. However, black lingerie, thongs, nudity, and further saucy actions are still somewhat risque. Jump cuts and repeat zooms both cover production corners as well as build onscreen intense while heart pulsing rhythms and sound effects accent the bloody prosthetics and horror makeup. Several practical monster effects remain surprisingly good, and creepy old homes, dangerous antiques, and spooky staircases join the slimy recently deceased or skeletons from the grave.

There are a few slip-ups in this short but otherwise choice season. However, once again Tales from the Crypt turns out a fun little marathon with Season Four’s campy chills and scary stars making for some of the series’ best.

Revisit more Horror Television:

Tales from the Crypt Season 3

Tales from the Darkside Season 1

Dark Shadows Video Review

THE BIGFOOT FILES : Chapter Nineteen/ Sasquatch

Released in 2014, Sasquatch by K.T. Tomb is Book 1 in her five-book Sasquatch Series. It’s a throwback adventure story about a motley crew of investigators hired by a wealthy cryptozoologist to find the legendary creature.

Tomb Sasquatch.jpg

The team is led by a conflicted but strong female character named Lux Branson. Lux is a professional tracker who’s talented but broke and needs the money offered for the job. Her task is to guide a group of four people, including an anthropologist and a biologist, deep into the Piney Woods of Texas and return with proof of Sasquatch.

Lux is not a believer in cryptids, but once in the forest, she starts to see proof of something lurking in the woods. However, she can’t shake the feeling the trip may be a hoax even as the evidence piles up.

When the team’s anthropologist commits an overzealous act in the name of science, Lux must face the shocking truth and rely on her instincts to survive.

Lux is the heart of the story, and I liked her. She was tough but not invincible, and she showed the fear of a normal human. Lux reminded me of a less tech version of Sanaa Lathan’s guide character Alexa Woods in the 2004 film Alien Vs. Predator.

With a couple of surprising encounters in the second half, including a stunner near the end, Sasquatch is a memorable series opener sure to please readers of Bigfoot fiction.

NEXT UP: Chapter Twenty: Track: Search for Australia’s Bigfoot. I review the 2020 documentary.


OTHER BOOK REVIEWS FROM THE BIGFOOT FILES

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Seventeen: Bigfoot Trail

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Fifteen: Night of the Sasquatch

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: ‘The Road Best Not Taken’

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Two: Dweller

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs for August

Ro’s Recs – Musical Departures

Greetings from Sweaty California! As I’m writing this I’m in major danger of melting. I hope you’re hanging in there and listening to some great music. Today I want to talk about bands that go rogue…and it works. I was a huge fan of MTV Unplugged from way back, and I admire when bands step away from their usual sound and take a chance, whether it’s a remix or a brand new sound. This pandemic has brought out a decidedly experimental side of many of my favorite artists. They’ve released songs that are outside their usual wheelhouse, and they are wickedly entertaining. Check out this list of recs and open your mind to some experimental sounds.

  1. Motionless in White released new versions of two of their songs. “Eternally Yours” and “Another Life” were two outstanding tracks from Disguise and these melodic versions are incredibly beautiful. Chris Motionless’s vocals are so vulnerable and ethereal. I love the songs in their original arrangements, but the fact that the band stepped out of their comfort zone and showed a different side to their music makes me love the songs even more. 
  2. Metallica was one of the first metal bands to perform with a symphony, which when you think about it, there’s not too much of a stretch between metal and symphonic music. There’s a similar passion and frenetic energy in both performances. So when Metallica joined the San Francisco Symphony again this year and released this version of expectations were high. I love the balance of quiet musings followed by growly declarations from Hetfield. It’s a moody tune that is expertly crafted by the masters of metal. We trust them to carry us through, and so when they diverge from their usual heavy path, we know they’re going to deliver the goods. The album comes out August 28th and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.
  3. Korn is no stranger to cover songs. One of my favorites they’ve done was “Word Up” from the 80s band Cameo. But this summer they blew me away with a cover of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” featuring one of my absolute favorite artists, Yelawolf. The single was posted on Bandcamp as a fundraiser for AwakeningYouth.org—an organization that supports youth who have lost a parent to addiction or suicide—and a way to celebrate the life of the original singer, Charlie Daniels. You gotta give this classic tune a listen. Yelawolf and Jonathan Davis trading vocals on this tune gave me so many feels! And when you’re done, definitely take a deep dive into the music catalog from both Korn and Yelawolf, especially his video for “Shadows.” The song itself is a haunting childhood nightmare, but it’s also filmed at his childhood home. He had to trespass in the now-abandoned house to film.  You won’t be disappointed. 
  4. Corey Taylor, frontman of the legendary Slipknot and the hard-rocking Stone Sour, has released two singles from his upcoming solo album. The first two songs are complete departures from his previous music. “CMFT Must Be Stopped” is a rap-rock tune with guests Tech N9ne, who Taylor has previously collaborated with, and Kid Bookie, a London rapper who I’ll definitely be checking out more from. And for those who like to watch videos, you will be entertained by Corey’s wife’s dance troop (they like to play with fire) and several cameos from Corey’s friends. It’s a fun tune about his big mouth and bigger attitude. The tune “Black Eyes Blue” is a straight pop-rocker with a catchy riff and a feel-good melody. 
  5. Marilyn Manson has put out some incredible music over the past few years, but this new track, “We Are Chaos” is surprisingly full of 70s glam goodness along with Manson’s trademark dark lyrics. I’m looking forward to the rest of this album, which comes out later this year. 

That’s it for this month’s Ro’s Recs. I hope you find a new jam in this collection to help lift your spirits. Dark times are upon us and we need all of the mood boosters we can get. I’m happy to be your guide on a musical journey. If you love music and stories about music, my upcoming novel Brains, and Brawn: Summer of Hush Book Two is out August 24th and it’s my love letter to the years of Warped Tour music festivals. Check it out on Amazon if you’re looking for a pick-me-up romance. Take care of you and yours, comment and share some of your favorite musical departures from your favorite artists, and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Antrum Deadliest Film Ever Made

Plotline: Said to be a cursed film from the late 1970s, Antrum examines the horrifying power of storytelling.

Who would like it: Fans of found footage, demonic possession, WTF, Throwback films, fans of magic and the occult 

High Points: The trailer, loved the hype but the movie was really good. 

Complaints

Overall: I usually don’t like found footage films but I really liked this one

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: A streaming link

 

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Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: 324 Abercorn Street by Mark Allan Gunnells

 

Review by Stephanie Ellis

Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis: ‘Brad Storm doesn’t believe in ghosts, but moving into the house at 324 Abercorn just may change his mind.

Best-selling author Bradley Storm finally has enough money to buy and restore his dream home. Despite 324 Abercorn’s reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America, Bradley isn’t worried. He doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Then strange things begin to happen. Objects no longer where he left them. Phantom noises heard from empty rooms. Shadows glimpsed from the corner of his eye.

Is his house truly haunted, or is there something more sinister happening on the property?

With the help of Bradley’s new boyfriend and a few friends who are just as intrigued with the seemingly inexplicable occurrences surrounding the infamous house, they set out to find the truth of what stalks the halls at 324 Abercorn.

A feel-good haunted house story. Can there be such a thing? I never thought so until Crystal Lake Publishing produced this little gem.

When novelist Bradley Storm hits the big time, he finally buys his dream home, the reputedly haunted 324 Abercorn in Savannah. With a strong disbelief in the supernatural, he dismisses the little occurrences going on around him. Television turned on, door open – all can be explained away by logic. The ‘haunted’ element of his house is easily pushed to the back of his mind as he embarks on a relationship with artist and student, Tobias.

As their relationship develops against the warm Savannah backdrop, it feels nothing bad can happen – until it does. Strange visions start to affect him, changing his mind about the supernatural and causing him to doubt his own sanity. Yet he has good friends around him and they join in his search for the truth behind the house.

And this was where the story fell down a little for me. There was no tension between any of the main characters. The quartet of Brad, Tobias, Neisha from the Heritage Centre and Howard, Tobias’s housemate was a perfect circle of friendship, no undercurrent of conflict or hints at a hidden agenda. The reveal was clearly sign-posted very early on and the wrap-up at the end was too swift. This created a lack of tension and weakened any sense of horror, there was no sense of dread. It was this missing chill factor, which made it feel more like a romance with a touch of horror thrown in, that stopped me giving it the full 5 stars.

For me, this was very much a feel-good story, one to be read on a warm summer evening, sat on a terrace with a glass of wine in hand.